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Farm Bills anger farmers, protest spreads

Protests in Maharashtra, Punjab, Haryana, Telangana, Chhattisgarh, western UP; farmers’ body plans rail roko from September 24 to 26

A day after the Lok Sabha passed two contentious agriculture Bills, despite the opposition by BJP’s oldest ally Shiromani Akali Dal terming it as an “anti-farmer” move, farmers’ protests have spread in several States, including Maharashtra, Punjab, Haryana, Telangana, Chhattisgarh and western Uttar Pradesh.

A protesting farmer in Punjab on Friday tried to commit suicide by consuming poisonous substance. Farmers’ organisations  have decided to hold a “rail roko” agitation from September 24 to 26 in protest against the Bills.  Thousands of farmers from western Uttar Pradesh held a sit in protest on the Delhi-Meerut expressway on Friday.

The Congress has announced to launch a nationwide agitation against the Farm Bills and is in talks with other Opposition parties to corner the Modi Government. Punjab Finance Minister Manpreet Singh Badal on Friday said Punjab alone would suffer a loss of Rs 4,000 crore every year due to these legislations that will lead to mass destruction of rural livelihoods, increase farmer distress.

“We have decided to hold a rail roko nationwide agitation from September 24 to 26 against the three agriculture legislations,” Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Committee general secretary Sarwan Singh Pandher said. Already, different farmer organisations in Punjab have given a call for a “bandh” on September 25. 

A protesting farmer has tried to commit suicide in Badal village, the hometown of the Badals, in Muktsar district.  He ate poison on Friday morning around 6:30 and his condition is still critical.

Thousands of farmers are sitting on dharna in Muktsar, Amritsar and other areas in Punjab under the banner of Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Committee, Bhartiya Kisan Union, All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee and Rashtriya Kisan Mahasangh. The farmers argue that the legislations would lead to the dismantling of the minimum support price (MSP) system, leaving them at the “mercy” of big corporates. According to Rakesh Tikait, Bharatiya Kisan Union, thousands of farmers have protested at the Delhi-Meerut Expressway against the passage of farm Bills.

A member of Punjab Aarhtia Association, said, “These legislations will ruin the agriculture marketing infrastructure network created in the past five decades. Benod Anand of Rashtriya Kisan Mahasangh, an organisation of 62 farmers unions,” he said, adding that farmers will hit the road on September 24 across India.

The Centre has brought the Bills without discussion with stakeholders, he alleged.

“Agriculture falls in the State list of subjects,” he said, adding that the Union Government’s action impinges on the State’s rights. Traditionally at odds (farmers and arthiyas) are together in this one-on-one against the BJP-led Centre aided by Opposition parties, farmers’ organisations and activists. Perhaps the real issue is too technical and the threat of new ecosystem rendering MSP irrelevant more impacting.  In Haryana, the members of the Bharatiya Kisan Union blocked the national highway-44 on September 10, demanding the immediate withdrawal of the agriculture ordinances.

Protesters were also baton charged in Pipli near Haryana’s Kurukshetra, for defying the administration’s warnings during the coronavirus pandemic.

Harsimrat Kaur Badal, an Akali Dal MP who resigned from the Prime Minister’s Cabinet on Thursday over the farm Bills, said she has opposed the ordinance and requested it to a select committee.

The Congress said any move to “disturb” the present procurement system may deepen “social unrest” amongst farmers of the state”.

“We urge upon the Government to review and reconsider these measures as these are unlikely to deliver on the promises made to them. Agri-marketing should be left to the states as envisaged in the Constitution,” the party said.

Breaking his silence after his resignation as a Minister last year, the cricketer-turned-politician Navjot Singh Sidhu described farming as the “soul of Punjab”. In a tweet in Punjabi, he said, “Farming is the soul of Punjab, the wounds of the body can heal but an attack on our spirit, our existence will not be tolerated. The war trumpet says Inqilab Zindabad, Punjab, Punjabiyat and each Punjabi are with the farmers.”

The three Bills will now be tabled in the Rajya Sabha and become laws after the Upper House also passes them. The Bills seek to open up the farm sector to more competition, modernise supply chains by allowing bigger agribusinesses to engage directly with farmers and create seamless access to markets.

Critics, including Opposition parliamentarians, however, said the Bills will dilute the country’s public procurement system and lead to exploitation by private companies. The Bills have already been passed by the Lok Sabha, where the ruling alliance has a brute major

Saturday, 19 September 2020 | PNS | New Delhi

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Farm Bills anger farmers, protest spreads


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