Saturday, February 24, 2024

“Delhi Chalo” march begins as talks fail, police detain farmers and seize vehicles

As the meeting with the union ministers proved indecisive, farmers from Punjab have begun their march to Delhi on Tuesday morning.

Farmers’ unions began the ‘Delhi Chalo’ march from Punjab’s Fatehgarh Sahib at around 10 am, moving towards the Punjab-Haryana border amid heavy security.

A number of farmers were detained and their vehicles were seized at the Punjab-Haryana (Shambhu) border by Haryana police soon after the march began.

Around 20,000 farmers in 2000 tractors and other vehicles are expected to reach the national capital by afternoon.

Protesting farmers decided to go on with the march which was announced last December, after there has been no resolution made on the main demand of the farmers — the minimum support price for crops.

The BJP government which has been trying to bring an end to agitations since the last two years from the time of farm law protests, made its final attempt to pacify the farmers by holding a meeting in Chandigarh.

The meeting attended by farmers, Food and Consumer Affairs Minister Piyush Goyal and Agriculture Minister Arjun Munda, lasted till midnight.

The government delegation agreed on repealing the Electricity Act 2020, compensation to farmers killed in Lakhimpur Kheri, Uttar Pradesh, and the withdrawal of cases against farmers during the farmers’ movement.

But, the government was adamant not to pay heed to the three key demands — enactment of a law to guarantee a Minimum Support Price for all crops, farmer loan waiver and the implementation of the Swaminathan Commission recommendations.

The other demands include:

– Punishment for the perpetrators of the October 2021 Lakhimpur Kheri killings.

– Pensions for farmers and farm labourers.

– India should withdraw from the World Trade Organization (WTO) and freeze all free trade agreements.

– Compensation for farmers who died during the Delhi protest, including a job for one family member.

– 200 (instead of 100) days’ employment under MGNREGA per year, daily wage of Rs 700, and scheme should be linked with farming.

– Strict penalties and fines on companies producing fake seeds, pesticides, fertilisers; improvements in seed quality.

– National commission for spices such as chili and turmeric.

– Ensure rights of indigenous peoples over water, forests, and land.

After the meeting ended just before midnight, Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Committee’s Sarwan Singh Pandher told the news reporters gathered outside that the ‘Delhi Chalo’ march is on.

“Two years ago, the government had promised to meet half of our demands in writing… We wanted to resolve the issue peacefully. But the government is not sincere. They just want to waste time,” a farmers’ representative told reporters.

Meanwhile, the Delhi Police have been taking stringent measures to stop the march from entering Delhi.

There is heavy deployment at the Singhu, Tikri and Ghazipur borders. The roads are being blocked with barricades, concrete slabs, nails and barbed wires, and the movement of commercial vehicles are hence hindered.

Training sessions to use drones that shed tear gas shells on protesters have also been going on since a while.

“We Aren’t The Ones Who Blocked Roads,” farmers said mockingly pointing at the preparations of the police.

The police have also imposed a month-long ban on public meetings under section 144 and tractors and trolleys entering the city.

Similarly, the authorities in Haryana have also fortified the state borders with Punjab at many places, including Ambala, Jind, Fatehabad, Kurukshetra and Sirsa.

Moreover, the 2021 draconian law against public and private property damage that makes perpetrators pay has also been invoked.

Rajasthan has also sealed its borders with Punjab and Haryana on February 11, and imposed prohibitory orders under Section 144 CrPC in Sri Ganganagar and Hanumangarh districts.

Empowered with a successful past of dissent, which led to the government’s withdrawal of the farm laws following the year-long agitation in 2020-21, Samyukta Kisan Morcha and the Kisan Mazdoor Morcha had announced the ‘Delhi Chalo’ march.

The Kisan Mazdoor Morcha which has the allegiance of more than 250 farmers’ unions, and the Samyukta Kisan Morcha — a platform of another 150 unions — called the protest to remind the government of the promises it made two years ago.

The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and Congress have extended their support to the farmers.

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