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Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Two farm Bills passed in both Houses, but Punjab farmers say it can’t quash their spirit

Declaring that they won’t let the government do anything against them, they burnt effigies of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the NDA government as well as copies of the Bills in villages across the state on Sunday.

Written by Raakhi Jagga | Ludhiana | September 22, 2020 11:10:07 am
Members of various farmer organisations protest against Prime Minister Narendra Modi over the Electricity Amendment Bill 2020 and agriculture-related Bills introduced by the Centre at the PUDA ground in Patiala on Monday. Harmeet Sodhi

The passing of two of the three contentious farm Bills in Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha has not deterred protesting farmers in Punjab.
Declaring that they won’t let the government do anything against them, they burnt effigies of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the NDA government as well as copies of the Bills in villages across the state on Sunday.

Farmers said Punjab has a history of revolution. At Bhawanigarh mandi of Sangrur district, farmer Kulwinder Singh said, “We can do anything to save our land. In the past, we did not let banks do kurki on our land. Hence, even if they have passed the Bills, we will continue our struggle.”

Paramjeet Kaur Pitho, a woman leader of BKU (Ugrahan), said, “So what if they have passed it in Rajya Sabha. We had protested against forcible land acquisition in Gobindpura village of Mansa in 2011 when the thermal plant was to be built, in which one farmer had died and many had been injured as well. The Government was forced to give the land back to the farmers.”

Sukhdev Singh Kokri Kalan, general secretary, added, “In Barnala, forcible land acquisition was being done in 2007 for it to be handed over to a corporate house for special economic zone under conditions not suitable to farmers. We had protested and later got the amendments done. We had got land acquisition for thermals cancelled in Gidderbaha and Amritsar. Hence, we are not worried, rather the government should be worried about how they are going to face us as they have lost their credibility,” he added.

After the farm Bills were passed in Rajya Sabha, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had tweeted in Hindi, English as well as Punjabi language, speaking about the benefits of farm Bills. Randeep Sangatpura, a young activist, farmer and teacher, said, “PM Sunday tweeted in Punjabi language four times which shows the struggle of farmers has reached PMO, which has forced him to talk to Punjab farmers in their regional language. However, our stir is on and we will not accept these Bills.”

Gurmeet Singh from Sangrur said, ”People must be remembering the struggle by farmers of Nandigram in West Bengal due to which they did not allow Tata to acquire land for the Nano plant.”

Surjit Singh, president of BKU (Sidhupur), Sangrur district, said, “Every one must be remember that our stir had led to farmer leader Manjeet Dhaner being pardoned as he was fighting for the rights of a teenage girl who was brutally murdered and raped. Even in Dhaner’s case, we did not budge and continued sitting on dharna outside jail. Hence we are ready for struggle of any kind if it comes.”

‘Amendments can be made’

However, for the first time, Kokri Kalan spoke on the issue of amendments, while earlier, he was talking about the cancellation of Bills. On Sunday, he said, “The government should put a clause that if any company purchases our goods below MSP, they should be booked and fined. Or the government should pay the difference to us. All the rules are for us and not for corporates. If they add these clauses, we can think of accepting these Bills.”

Ruldu Singh, another Mansa-based farmer, said, “A brand sells products at whatever price they want, whenever they feel like, they increase prices for consumers. Then why are we not in a position to fix price of our product such as wheat/rice/vegetables / potato etc as without our produce, these brands are zero.”

Next meeting on September 23

Farmer unions will next be meeting on September 23 to plan the next course of action. Meanwhile, the strength of farmers is growing each day in pakka morchas at Badal village and at Patiala which entered its seventh day apart from gatherings at the village level as well. In these dharnas, meetings, social distancing norms are not being followed at all and majority can be seen without masks. Punjab Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh had recently said that these farmers will not be booked under Section 144 as they were protesting for a cause while risking their own lives.

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