Farmers’ protest: Farmer leaders on Tuesday evening declared a temporary ceasefire for today after hours of clash with the police on their way to Delhi and said they would continue with their protest from tomorrow morning. Farmers are marching towards Delhi demanding a law on Minimum Support Price (MSP) for crops, farm loan waiver and the implementation of Swaminathan Commission recommendations among others.
Addressing the media on Tuesday, Farmer leader Sarwan Singh Pandher said, “It is evening now. We will ask our youth that there should be a ceasefire from both sides. Tomorrow we will see again.”
Modi govt ‘attacked’ farmers with tear gas at Shambhu border
Pandher further slammed the Narendra Modi government, saying it “attacked” the farmers marching towards Delhi by lobbing multiple teargas shells at them at the Shambhu border near Ambala.
Pandher at the Shambhu border told reporters, “In the history of India, today is a black day. It is shameful the way the Modi government attacked farmers and farm labourers. Even today, we say we are farmers and labourers of the country and we do not want any fight,” Pandher said, as he reiterated farmers’ demands of a legal guarantee to the minimum support price and debt waiver.
The Haryana Police lobbed multiple rounds of teargas shells, including through drones, at the Shambhu border near Ambala to disperse farmers marching towards Delhi. The police first used teargas when farmers tried to break barricades set up at the Shambhu border and throw it off the Ghaggar River bridge. A drone was also used to drop the tear gas shells and keep an eye on the protesters. Farmers were seen carrying wet jute bags to shield themselves from the effect of the smoke released from tear gas shells. In response to the police action, the farmers retaliated by throwing stones.
Some of the farmers also tried to remove the cement barricades with the help of tractors. Despite an appeal by the Haryana Police to stay away from the barricades, many protesters continued to stay put and stood over the barricades.
60 farmers injured
Jagjit Singh Dallewal, another farmer leader, stated that approximately 60 young farmers sustained injuries in the police action. “Today, farmers wanted to go to the national capital and carrying out such an attack on them … around 60 youths got injured,” claimed Dallewal, who represents Samyukta Kisan Mocha (Non-Political).
He also accused the Centre of not showing any seriousness to their demands. “We want to put forth our views. There are no new demands and these are commitments made the government,” he said.
Many Rapid Action Force personnel were also injured during the farmers’ protest and have been brought to Ambala Civil Hospital. Principal Medical Officer Sangeeta Goyal said that they have received seven cases so far, including four Haryana Police officers and staff, and three from the Rapid Action Force. She assured that all of them are in stable condition, conscious, and their body parts are fine. The hospital has a dedicated team of doctors available 24 hours a day to provide medical care.
SKM writes to PM Modi
The Samyukt Kisan Morcha (SKM) has written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi demanding Minimum Support Price for crops, slamming action on the farmers’ ‘Dilli Chalo’ march and accusing the government of trying to “project” division among farmer bodies. It urged all like-minded farmer organisations to unite and take part in the February 16 Gramin Bharat Bandh called by the central trade unions.
Said the SKM, “Your government and that of Haryana and Uttar Pradesh led by the BJP have resorted to repressive measures on peaceful protests of farmers and unleashed lathi-charge, rubber bullets and tear gas shells, injuring many and inflict an atmosphere of terror on common farmers.”
The SKM mentioned their demands including MSP for all crops based on the Swaminathan formula of C2+50 (input cost of capital+50 per cent), legal guarantee of procurement, debt waiver, no hike in electricity tariff and no smart metres. They also demanded free 300 units power for farming and for domestic use and for shops, comprehensive crop insurance, and a hike in pensions to Rs 10,000 per month among others.
Why are farmers protesting?
Nearly two years later, farmers have resumed their agitation this morning after meeting with Union ministers remained inconclusive, calling for the implementation of a law ensuring a minimum support price (MSP) for crops based on the report of the M S Swaminathan Commission. Following an unsuccessful meeting with three Union ministers in Chandigarh on Monday (February 12) evening, the farmers are attempting to march towards Delhi.
As farmers in large numbers marched towards the national capital on Tuesday, the police fired tear gas on the protestors at the Punjab-Haryana Shambhu Border. The police also deployed concrete slabs, iron nails, barricades, barbed wires, and police and paramilitary personnel at Kurukshetra in Haryana in view of the ‘Delhi Chalo’ march by the farmers.
12 demands of farmers
The farmers have put forth 12 demands before the central government for which they’re marching to Delhi. The protest this time has been called by the Sanyukt Kisan Morcha and Punjab Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Committee, led by farmer union leaders Jagjeet Singh Dallewal and Sarwan Singh Pandher.
The protesting farmers claim that the government assured them of improved crop prices, leading to the conclusion of their 2021 protest. They are now demanding the enactment of a law that ensures a minimum support price (MSP) for all crops, in accordance with the recommendations of the Swaminathan Commission report.
In addition to MSP assurance, the farmers are calling for a comprehensive debt waiver programme and the establishment of a pension scheme for both farmers and farm labourers. Furthermore, they are vehemently opposing the Electricity Amendment Bill 2020 and are urging for the reinstatement of the Land Acquisition Act of 2013. This reinstatement would entail provisions ensuring farmers’ consent and compensation set at four times the collector rate.
Further, they are demanding to punish those involved in the Lakhimpur Kheri killings.
What government say?
Union Agriculture Minister Arjun Munda, however, said a law guaranteeing MSP cannot be brought in a hurry without consulting all stakeholders. He urged farmer groups to have a structured discussion with the government on the issue. “In the two rounds of discussions, we agreed to many of their demands. But there was no agreement on certain issues. The talks are still on,” Munda said.
He said that a policy guaranteeing an MSP requires a holistic approach taking into consideration the views of all stakeholders, including the state governments. “Humein MSP ke baare mein yeh dekhna hai kanoon kis tarah banana hai aur ismein kya labh aur kya nuksaan hai. (On MSP, we need to see what kind of law we have to come up with and what are the benefits and drawbacks of such a law),” Munda said.
Munda and Union Food and Consumer Affairs Minister Piyush Goyal had held last-ditch talks with farmer bodies in Chandigarh on Monday night. But the five-hour meeting remained inconclusive.
The Punjab and Haryana High Court on Tuesday also issued notices to the Centre and the states of Haryana and Punjab, on two separate petitions linked to the march. One of the petitioners sought directions from the court to stay all “obstructive” actions by the two state governments and the Centre. The other pleaded for directions to ensure no highway is blocked by the protesters.
What is MSP?
The Minimum Support Price (MSP) is a form of market intervention by the Government of India to shield agricultural producers from significant drops in farm prices. Announced at the onset of the sowing season for specific crops, these minimum support prices are determined based on recommendations from the Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices (CACP). The primary aim of the MSP is to ensure that farmers are protected against steep declines in prices during years of bumper production.
Through the MSP mechanism, the government aims to achieve several key objectives. Firstly, it seeks to shield farmers from the adverse effects of distress sales, thereby providing them with a safety net against market volatility. Additionally, the procurement of food grains at MSP rates facilitates the accumulation of stocks for public distribution, thereby contributing to food security initiatives.
In instances where the market price for a particular commodity falls below the announced minimum price, often due to excess production and oversupply, government agencies step in to purchase the entire quantity offered by farmers at the established minimum price. This intervention serves to stabilize prices and mitigate the adverse impacts of market fluctuations on farmers’ incomes.
‘If farmers are aggressive, we need not be defensive’: Delhi Police
A senior officer of the Delhi Police, Special Commissioner of Police (Law and Order) Ravindra Yadav, visited the heavily fortified Singhu border on Tuesday and directed the personnel deployed there not to adopt a defensive stance in case of aggression from the protesting farmers. He emphasized that allowing the farmers to enter Delhi would jeopardize the entire operation.
He told the forces they need to act “logically” and by keeping their safety in mind. “If they are coming aggressively, we have to show more aggression. Then only we can stop them. If they are aggressive, we need not be defensive,” he told them using a microphone and loudspeaker.
“We have to fire tear gas shells, use lathis (baton) and save ourselves,” the senior officer said. “This process may keep running for a day.”
The main objective of the police is to stop the farmers from entering Delhi, Yadav said, adding they cannot be allowed to disturb law and order or indulge in violence.
(With agencies input)