Farmers ‘Delhi Chalo’ Protest: Massive Showdown Likely After Peasants Reject Centre’s Proposal, Decide to Camp in City

More than 10,000 farmers are camping at Punjab-Haryana borders with their tractors and trolleys to March to the national capital from 11 am on February 21.
Farmers ‘Delhi Chalo’ Protest: Massive Showdown Likely After Peasants Reject Centre’s Proposal, Decide to Camp in City

New Delhi: Stage seems to be set for a showdown after the farmers protesting at Punjab-Haryana Shambhu border on Monday rejected the Centre’s proposal (to procure five crops at minimum support price or MSP for five years) following marathon deliberations and announced that they would resume their march toward New Delhi at 11 a.m. on February 21 (Wednesday).

Jagjit Singh Dallewal, president of the Bharatiya Kisan Union Ekta Sidhupur, which along with the Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Committee (KMSC) formed a new farmers’ collective called the Samyukta Kisan Morcha (non-political) or SKM (non-political) and gave the ‘Delhi Chalo’, told the media on February 19 that they rejected the proposal as it was just an “eyewash” and “not beneficial” for farmers.

“The proposal is nothing but an attempt to indirectly introduce contract farming,” he said, explaining that “it was only valid for those who would grow cotton, maze and pulses crops — abandoning wheat or paddy crops. 

The contract farming model, he claimed, has already proven to be ineffective and is unable to provide farmers with a stable income. He emphasized that the government in the proposal had promised MSP only on five crops — which they describe as a rejection of their demand. 

Farmer unions want the Union government to give them a legal guarantee to ensure MSP for the procurement (be it private or by the government) of 23 crops across the country under the purview of the Commission for Agricultural Cost and Prices (CACP).

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During the fourth round meeting with farmer leaders in Chandigarh on late February night, Union ministers Piyush Goyal, Arjun Munda and Nityanand Rai had proposed that government agencies such as the National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation of India (NAFED) and the National Cooperative Consumers Federation (NCCF) would enter into an agreement with farmers and buy maze, pulses and cotton crops at MSP for five years.

Dallewal, convenor of the breakaway faction of the original SKM that had led a siege on Delhi for 13 months in 2020-21 — demanding scrapping of now repealed three controversial agricultural laws, said it was not justified on part of the government to not guarantee MSP for those who do not switch over from wheat and paddy.

He said estimations from experts in agriculture and economy indicate that the government’s total outlay would not exceed Rs 1.75 lakh crore if it were to guarantee MSP for all 23 crops. He pointed out the Union government spends almost Rs 1.5 lakh crore on the import of edible oils alone.

He went on to allege that the government had not demonstrated any commitment to their other demands — which included farmers’ debt waiver, stopping of the privatisation of electricity, a comprehensive public sector crop insurance scheme, a pension of Rs 10,000 per month for farmers who are over 60, dismissal and prosecution of Union minister Ajay Mishra ‘Teni’ whose son was allegedly involved in farmer killings in Uttar Pradesh’s Lakhimpur Kheri, among others.

Sarwan Singh Pandher, convener of the KMSC, also said that they would continue to stick to their demand (a law to guarantee MSP every year on procurement of all 23 crops).

Both famer leaders, meanwhile, said they have decided to reject the government’s proposal and go ahead with their march from Wednesday (February 21) onwards.

Demanding restoration of Internet service in Punjab and Haryana and putting an end to the “continued brutality against farmers who are camping along the Punjab-Haryana border at the Sambhu and Khanauri, the peasant leaders urged the Haryana government to let them continue their march and camp in the national capital as holding peaceful march and sit-in is their legal rights.

Dallewal said farmers have a fundamental right to agitate for their rights, and the same cannot be taken away by force as is occurring at these borders where a large number of security forces have also been stationed.

Over 10,000 farmers have been camping at the two entries of Haryana since February 13 to march to Delhi.

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The police in Haryana, Delhi and Uttar Pradesh, sources told The Mooknayak, have got “clear instructions” from the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) “not to allow the protesting farmers at any cost” to enter and lay a siege in Delhi. 

And therefore, the Haryana Police has put in place multi-layer barricading at the two borders to prevent the peasants from moving ahead. 

Violent clashes were witnessed on February 13-14 at Shambhu and Khanauri where dozens of protesters were injured when they were stopped from marching towards the national capital.

In addition to resorting to lathicharge, water cannons, tear gassing and rubber bullets, the security forces were accused of using pellet guns — resulting in permanent blinding of at least three farmers and grievous injuries to others.

However, Haryana Director General of Police Shatrujeet Kapur denied the allegation with regard to the use of pellet guns. 

Reacting to the statement of the police chief, Dallewal said, “This is a lie.”

Meanwhile, the original SKM — which is not part of the ongoing agitation — too has rejected the government’s proposal.

It said in a statement that the Center’s proposal to procure five crops — maize, cotton, arhar/tur (pigeon pea), masoor (lentil) and urad (black gram) — for five years was “essentially an attempt to dilute and divert the demand of MSP at the cost+50% profit model for all crops with guaranteed procurement”. 

It said this was originally recommended by the National Farmers Commission, which was chaired by late agronomist and agricultural scientist MS Swaminathan in 2006, and the BJP had pledged to implement it in its manifesto prior to the 2014 general elections.

Indian farmers — according to the SKM — will not accept anything less than the aforementioned MSP model for any crop with assured procurement.

“Let Prime Minister Modi be honest and tell the people that his government is unable to implement the promise made by the BJP,” it said.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MEITY), on a MHA request, has issued an emergency order to block 177 social media accounts and URLs affiliated with the farmers’ protests.

The order is against 42 ‘X’ (formerly Twitter) accounts and 49 links; 35 Meta (formerly Facebook) accounts, 35 links and 35 Meta connections; 14 Instagram accounts; 1 Reddit account; and 1 Snapchat account. 

Although blocking orders to X and Meta are not uncommon, this is the first time that Snap has been blocked. In the most recent tranche, no YouTube channels or videos were subject to blocking orders.

The banning orders, which were issued on February 19 and 14, are temporary and conditional measures that will remain in effect for the duration of the agitation. 

After the agitation is over, the social media platforms will reportedly be able to reinstate the visibility. The orders have been issued, invoking Section 69A of the IT Act.

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