With black turbans and waving black flags, protesting farmers’ organisations on Saturday blocked the KMP Expressway, connecting Kundli to Manesar and Palwal, to express their anguish against the Centre’s “consistent apathy” towards their demands.
Saturday, March 6, marked 100 days of the farmers’ protest against three Central farm laws and proposed Electricity (Amendment) Act.
Enthused protesters reached the expressway much before the stipulated time and blocked the highway completely. However, ample arrangements were made to provide passage to people seeking medical emergency in ambulances.
Addressing the protesters, Balbir Singh Rajewal, President, Bharatiya Kisan Union (Rajewal), said that the movement’s growing strength can be gauged from the fact that a number of countries have not only expressed concern but have decided to debate the issue in their parliaments too.
Rajewal said: “It is your struggle that inspired people across the world to join this historic movement. They collected signatures and compelled their MPs to debate the issue in their parliaments. After Canada and Australia, Britain’s Parliament is going debate the issue on Monday. I only want to say one thing. Be disciplined and never indulge in violence. Victory will be yours.”
Away from the mini hatchback used as podium, Bhupinder Singh from Moga maintained that subsidies on fertilisers, pesticides to farm implements have been cut whereas the prices of vegetables, which were once considered profitable, have only been plummeting for the growers. “It has been proved across European countries that farmers always need subsidies or direct income support to survive. Why doesn’t Modi (Prime Minister Narendra Modi) understand this,” he added.
Some farmers also appeared angry with the “inaction” of Congress party too. “It is trying to capitalise the anger of people. There are signs that it may go for early elections at the end of this year in Punjab after dissolving the Assembly with the excuse that the Governor did not sign its resolution or latest law for preventing sales of crops below minimum support price. It is still not putting its weight on the ground. In Parliament, too, it walked out in protest and left the battle to be fought out by smaller parties.”
Furthering the argument, Yashvinder Singh from Kurukshetra said it was “beyond comprehension” that the country was witnessing the biggest farmers’ movement in the history of independent India and the main Opposition party is missing from the action.
“They (Congress) should have acted like Jayant Chaudhary (Rashtriya Lok Dal leader) who is organising farmers in Western Uttar Pradesh. This only means that the party has lost its roots,” Singh said, adding that 100 days of farmers’ movement only showed that “we failed every conspiracy by BJP- RSS’ to bring bad name to us also.
“It is their modus operandi that they peddle rumours to defame any protest... in the Red Fort incident, they alleged that the national flag was insulted. We are firm that we will return with victory only,” he added.
When asked about farmers’ alleging that the World Trade Organisation has been arm- twisting the Indian government to accept its rules that primarily benefit the developed world, Singh said: “if this is the case, why did we elect Modi ? Simply to put our interests first. He should have criticised forums like it (WTO) which hampers our national interest,” he said.
Soon, the discussion took a political turn, with some farmers speculating over Assembly elections in West Bengal.
“I think they (BJP) will lose. They campaigned viciously in Delhi Assembly elections and roamed in every street and corner but the results sent them into their holes to introspect. This will happen in Bengal, too. People are becoming aware about inflation and the monopoly of two companies in the coming days,” Singh said.
Talking about their appeal to farmers in West Bengal, Major Singh Punnawala, secretary, Kul Hind Kisan Sabha Punjab, said the leadership of farmers’ organisations is going to Bengal with the sole request of not voting for BJP.
“As many as 12 farmers organisations from Bengal came to us with the request to campaign in the poll-bound state. Throughout the campaign, we will highlight how farmers were looted and deprived of just prices even when PM Modi kept lying that MSP will not be touched,” he added.
Rajinder Singh Deep Singh Wala, vice-president, Kirti Kisan Union said the government must not forget that farmers have taken this movement to 20 states and the number will only increase.
“I went to West Bengal to campaign against the atrocious laws three days ago. I have no hesitation in saying that it is people of Punjab and Bengal who contributed most to the Independence movement. History is repeating itself. We will protect our legacy. We are ready to sacrifice anything in this second battle for economic independence,” he added.