As their agitation entered the third day on Sunday, farmers in Punjab and Haryana continued to dump their produce on roads as a mark of their protest, while vegetable prices soared in several cities of the two states. The 10-day agitation by farmers against the alleged anti-farmer policies of the central government began on Friday.
Several farmers’ organisations are jointly protesting in 22 states, demanding remunerative prices for their produce, implementation of Swaminathan Commission recommendations and farm loan waiver. They have stopped the supply of vegetables, fruits, milk and other items to cities. Prices of vegetables and other items have soared in the wake of dwindling supplies of farm produce, traders said.
The farmers, instead of supplying their produce to madis, are dumping them on roads to make their displeasure clear. At several places in Punjab and Haryana, including Ludhiana, Moga, Muktsar, Kurukshetra, Fatehabad and Sonipat, they held protests. Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar said protesting against the government “will not serve any purpose”.
“We have always been listening to farmers and we have come up with so many schemes and programmes for the welfare of peasants. Be it schemes related to crop compensation, crop insurance or shielding the farmers from price fluctuations or schemes related to irrigation, we have launched many initiatives for their welfare,” Khattar told reporters. He said farmers would never forgive “those who force them to throw their vegetables and spill the milk on the roads”.
“Those who are misguiding farmers into doing so are their biggest enemies,” he said, adding that vegetables, fruits and milk were produced after tremendous hard work by farmers. Responding to a question, Khattar said “those who are stopping farmers from bringing their produce to markets and forcing them to throw them on roads, would be sternly dealt with”. However, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh criticised the Centre for allegedly being apathetic to the distress in the agriculture sector.
“When farmers, who feed the nation, are forced to take to streets to draw attention to their pitiable condition, then it does not augur well for the country,” he said in a statement. Sympathising with farmers, Singh wondered what else they should be expected to do when their survival was at stake.
“The farmers are suffering as a result of the central government’s failure to waive their debts, which many state governments, including Punjab, had been repeatedly seeking, and also to give them the due price for their produce,” he said, reiterating his demand for implementation of the Swaminathan Commission report.
On Saturday, Union Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh said the protest by farmers were attempts to get media attention. “It requires some unusual deeds to appear in the media,” Singh told reporters at a press conference in Patna. His controversial statement triggered demands by opposition parties for his removal, with the Rashtriya Janata Dal accusing him of being “insensitive” to farmers’ plight.
Addressing a public meeting in Samalkha in Panipat on Sunday, former Haryana chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda claimed that the policies of the BJP government at the Centre and in the state have delivered a “death-blow” to farmers. “How will farmers repay their loans if they do not get fair price for their produce? If sugar mills are not clearing their dues, does the government have any face to ask farmers to repay their debts,” Hooda questioned.
Due to the protest, 5,862 litres of milk reached Vita Milk plant in Ambala City on Saturday against a daily average of 76,000 litres of milk. However, a senior official at the plant said they have sufficient stock of milk and the supply was not affected much. The supply may be hit if the agitation continues, he added.
Farmers are holding the protest under the banner of Kisan Ekta Manch and Rashtriya Kisan Maha Sangh.