Amid massive security build-up, thousands of farmers head to Delhi

Thursday, June 20, 2024

Not deterred by the massive security build-up and barricading on borders linking Punjab with Haryana, thousands of farmers are not giving up after their over five-hour-long talks with the Centre remained inconclusive and they, riding tractor-trailers and earthmovers, on Tuesday morning started their protest march towards the national capital.

Driving tractors to go ahead with ‘Dilli Chalo’ march, they will pass through city, town and village streets of Punjab, disrupting traffic as they stepped up their protests against their demands, mainly legal guarantee for the minimum support price (MSP) for the crops.

In Punjab, there has largely been no blockade on highways and link roads by the police and the farmers could move ahead towards Haryana freely.

Representatives of all-India farmer unions late Monday unanimously announced here that they would reach the national capital on Tuesday to lodge a protest against the BJP-led Central government.

They warned the respective state governments that if they were stopped to proceed towards Delhi, they would stage a sit-in protest there indefinitely.

Farmer leaders from Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh met with Union ministers on Monday evening, with the meeting lasting for five hours, in the Centre’s last ditch attempt to halt the protest.

After the meeting, the Samyukta Kisan Morcha (non-political) and the Kisan Mazdoor Morcha announced that farmers will head to Delhi on Tuesday for their demands, including the enactment of a law to guarantee a minimum support price (MSP) for crops.

Besides, the farmers have also demanded the implementation of the Swaminathan Commission’s recommendations, as well as farm debt waiver.

After the second round of talks with farmer union leaders remained “inconclusive”, Union Agriculture Minister Arjun Munda said the government is still open to discuss their demands.

Besides Munda, Union Food and Consumer Affairs Minister Piyush Goyal was also present in the second round of discussions with farmer leaders in Chandigarh.

“There was a serious discussion with farmers on every topic. The government wants to bring every solution through talks. We reached an agreement on some issues. But there were some issues for which we said that a committee should be made for a permanent solution,” Munda told the media.

“Any issue can be resolved through discussion. We are hopeful that we will bring solutions. Our motive is that the rights of the farmers and the public are protected,” Munda, who was accompanying Goyal, said.

Loaded with dry foodstuff on trailers, farmers say this is important to help sustain the protest movement for long. The foodstuff they have been gathering for several days from village to village.

With only 1.57 per cent of the country’s total population, Punjab contributes 40 per cent to the national food pool.

Farmer leader Nachattar Singh from Moga said the ‘langar’ (free meal service) will go where they stage sit-in protests indefinitely until the Central government accepts their demands that it accepted when they ended their year-long in 2022.

He said they would stage a sit-in protest wherever they would be stopped while proceeding towards Delhi.

A spokesperson for Haryana Police said they have made elaborate arrangements to maintain law and order in the state.

“A total of 114 companies have been deployed in various districts of the state, out of which 64 companies are from paramilitary forces and 50 companies are from Haryana Police,” spokesperson and Assistant Inspector General Manisha Chaudhary said.

Farmers have planned to enter Haryana from Shambhu border in Patiala, Moonak in Sangrur, Dabwali in Muktsar and Ratia in Mansa. The Haryana Police have sealed all four entry points by putting up barricades, boulders, tippers filled with sand and barbed wires and iron spikes, impacting the movement of vehicular traffic with huge traffic snarls.

Security has also been beefed up along the Singhu, Ghazipur and Tikri borders to stop protests in Delhi.

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