Farmers to hold homage meets to spread agitation as protest enters deadlock


Farmers protest Shambhu Border

Farmers protest at Shambhu Border (PTI Photo)


The agitating farmers on Wednesday decided to “intensify the fight” for a legal guarantee for Minimum Support Price (MSP) by entering other parts of the country and holding homage meetings for protesters who died during the ongoing stir.


The old Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM), the umbrella body of farmers’ organisations that spearheaded the 2020-21 farmers’ protest at Delhi borders against the three central agri laws, will hold a ‘Kisan Mazdoor Mahapanchayat’ at the Ramlila Maidan.


A resolution will be passed there to “intensify the fight” against the policies of the government, the SKM said. The farmers are allowed to hold the ‘Mahapanchayat’ without bringing their tractors and the gathering should not exceed 5,000.


“The protest is going on in full swing and we are not backing off by any means till our demands are met. On March 10, we organised a very successful ‘rail roko’ agitation. We are getting good support from all quarters, and therefore, there is no question of the movement fizzling out,” Abhimanyu Kohar, an SKM spokesman, told Business Standard. SKM (non-political), is one of the main groups spearheading the current agitation.


Kohar said the farmers are ready for talks and are awaiting a formal official invite from the government.


“We have very strong arguments in our favour and it is for the government to decide what it wants. Just the other day, there were reports that the government was facilitating imports of urad from Brazil. On the one hand, it does not want to pay its farmers their rightful MSP, and on the other, it is easing imports,” Kohar said.


The old SKM constituents have not actively participated in the current stir but expressed their moral support while embarking on a separate agitation programme. The earlier protests, according to some experts, were better mobilised than the current stir.


“Last time, the issue was different as the farmers’ unions managed to convince the farmers that their lands could get displaced if the laws came into force. Their second demand was related to MSP and government purchases. The previous agitation reached a peak before entering into a lull phase. Also, this time the protests have been launched by a faction of the original SKM, which does not have a very strong linkage with farmers’ unions from other states,” said Dr RS Ghuman, Professor of Eminence, Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar.


This time, the government was better prepared in terms of men on the ground and they had an offer in hand, Ghuman said.


“We had set up our team when the farmers reached Delhi in 2020. Today, they are still at the Shambhu border, unlike in 2020 when they had reached Delhi’s Singhu, Gazipur and Trikri borders. The jatthas are far fewer in numbers than they were the last time,” said a member of the ‘Trolley Times’ team, who did not want to be identified.


A few weeks ago, the three-member panel of ministers holding talks with the protesting farmers mooted a proposal to purchase entire quantities of masoor, urad, arhar, maize and cotton over the next five years from farmers, who shift from wheat and paddy on MSP, to find a solution to the problem.


Though the farmers rejected the proposal, sources said a formal blueprint has been prepared which includes creation of a dedicated portal where the farmers can enter details of their crops from which he has shifted and moved on to pulses and oilseeds. The government has plans to avail the services of satellite imagery and crop insurance data to verify diversification claims.


“I feel any decision on the demand being made by the farmers has to be made on the negotiating table and not anywhere else. If the farmers’ leaders think that it would be one-way traffic, then they are probably wrong as legalising MSP for all 23 crops is impractical and not implementable,” said Sardara Singh Johl, a noted agriculture economist and the former vice chancellor of Punjab Agriculture University (PAU).


“Farmers need income support which can be done by raising the annual installment under schemes like PM-KISAN but to demand legal MSP for all the 23 crops is wrong,” Johl said.

First Published: Mar 13 2024 | 9:51 PM IST



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