There seems to be no end in sight to the deadlock between the Centre and farmers even as the ongoing protests outside New Delhi completed their 17th day on Saturday. The farmers’ unions have announced they are going to intensify their agitation against the controversial agriculture laws and said that their union leaders will sit on a hunger strike on December 14.
“If the government wants to hold talks, we are ready, but our main demand will remain the scrapping of the three new farm laws. We will move onto our other demands only after that,” farmer leader Kanwalpreet Singh Pannu told reporters at Singhu border.
He also announced that thousands of farmers will start their ‘Delhi Chalo’ march from Rajasthan’s Shahjahanpur through the Jaipur-Delhi Highway at 11 am on Sunday.
Earlier on Saturday, protesting farmers picketed some toll plazas in Haryana, not allowing the authorities to collect fees from commuters as they pressed their demand for a repeal of the new laws.
The escalation in protest came on the day Prime Minister Narendra Modi said his government is committed to protecting the interest of farmers. Addressing FICCI’s 93rd annual convention, Modi said the farm reforms will give the farmers new markets and access to technology, and help bring investments in the agriculture sector that will benefit the farming community.
The government has taken various initiatives to improve the income of people engaged in the farm sector, Modi said, adding that farmers now have options to sell their crops in mandis as well as to outside parties.
Delhi Police increases security at Delhi borders
Meanwhile, the Delhi Police on Saturday increased security and placed more barriers at various border points as farmers announced their plans to block the Delhi-Jaipur highway and the Yamuna Expressway.
There is no protest yet on Delhi’s borders with Gurgaon and at other points of National Highway-8 that connects the national capital with Jaipur, news agency PTI reported citing a senior police officer.
Congress slams Centre for branding farmers ‘Maoist’, ‘anti-national’
The Congress has accused the government of branding its opponents as ‘Maoist’ or ‘anti-national’, and urged the Centre to accept the demands of the protesting farmers.
The opposition party’s statement came a day after Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar said “anti-social elements” are conspiring to disrupt the ongoing protests under the guise of farmers, and appealed to the farming community to be vigilant against the “misuse” of their platform.
Making similar remarks, Food, Railway and Consumer Affairs Minister Piyush Goyal on Saturday was more direct in his charge, alleging that certain “Leftist and Maoist elements” seem to have taken “control” of the agitation.
Tagging a media report on Goyal’s remarks, chief Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala tweeted, “Mr. Modi, autocracy has no place in democracy. Yours and your ministers’ policy is to declare every opponent a Maoist and an anti-national.”
“Apologise to the farmers who are on a sit-in braving the fierce cold and rains, and accede to their rightful demands immediately,” he tweeted in Hindi.
Haryana Dy CM: Hopeful on next round of Centre-farmers talks
Haryana Deputy Chief Minister Dushyant Chautala has said he is hopeful the next round of talks between the Centre and the farmers’ unions will take place in the next 24-48 hours.
After meeting Tomar, Chautala said the crop procurement at the government-decided minimum support price would be ensured for each farmer till the time he was part of the state government.
Bengal BJP head: New farm laws will help farmers get better price
West Bengal BJP president Dilip Ghosh said the agriculture reform measures will help them get better access to markets and realise a higher price for their produce. Speaking at a party’s programme in Paschim Medinipur district, he said farmers in the state have been deprived of getting a remunerative price for their produce.
“Earlier, a farmer was forced to sell his produce to middlemen. They sold potato at Rs 5 per kg, while we are buying it at Rs 40. They are unable to sell their paddy at minimum support price,” he said. They have been compelled to sell paddy at Rs 1,200-1,300 per quintal, instead of an MSP of over Rs 1,600, he added.
“The new farm laws will provide flexibility to farmers to sell their produce in markets where they get a better price,” Ghosh said.
Shiv Sena seeks Raosaheb Danve’s resignation
Workers of the ruling Shiv Sena in Maharashtra Saturday staged a demonstration in Aurangabad demanding resignation of Union minister Raosaheb Danve for his remarks against protesting farmers in Delhi.
Danve, who represents Jalna in Parliament, had stirred a controversy when he said that China and Pakistan were behind the farmers’ protests, inviting sharp reactions from various quarters.
(with PTI inputs)