New Delhi: Angry farmers in Punjab began a ‘rail roko’ on Thursday against the “anti-farmer” Bills passed by voice vote in the Rajya Sabha recently by the Narendra Modi government, a day ahead of a ‘Bharat Bandh’ call by over 250 farmer orgnaisations under the umbrella of All India Kisan Coordination Committee (AIKCC). Most Opposition parties, labour unions and federations are backing the call for ‘Bharat Bandh’.
The Farmer's Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020, the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, 2020 and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill, 2020, have been passed by both Houses and await presidential assent.
Farmer organisations and political parties are demanding that the Bills be withdrawn or sent to the Standing Committee for scrutiny and have urged the President not to give his assent to the Bills, as they seek to serve “corporate interests” rather than farmers’, as these also threaten to do away with the Minimum Support Price (MSP) cushion to farmers. Congress has even asked for a separate Bill to ensure MSP as a legal right.
Protests have been going on in Punjab, Haryana, Western Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra among others much before the Bills were introduced in the Monsoon session of Parliament.
Several farmer organisations have joined hands and are gearing up to make ‘Bharat Bandh’ a success, Apart from AIKCC, which is an umbrella of over 250 organisations, the others joining in include Bharatiya Kisan Union, All India Farmers Union, All India Kisan Mahasangh and others.
“In Haryana we have asked the farmers organizations, ahrtias and transporters to support the Bharat Bandh against the three agriculture bills passed by the centre by blocking the roads and taking out protest march in all the districts of the state,” said a BKU (Charuni) leader, who didn’t wish to be named, according to a report in The Hindustan Times.
Farmers are agitated for not being consulted before taking such wide-ranging policy decisions.
Avik Saha of the AIKCC tweeted: “ .... Written 100 letters to PM requesting discussion on farm bills. No response & the govt. has passed the bills despite farmers' outrage.”
In an interview with The Wire, Vijoo Krishnan, joint secretary of the All India Kisan Sabha, said: “...fear is arising out of their [farmers’] experience on the ground and the BJP government’s earlier decisions. Already procurement at MSP is low. When the three Bills are read together, one can clearly understand how the World Trade Organisation diktats to cut subsidies, reduce public stockholding and such measures are being implemented through them.”
Krishnan said farmer protests have been going for quite some time but the Modi government seems deaf to the growing agrarian crisis. On June 10, the farm ordinances were burnt in more than 3,500 centres across the country, he said.
On August 9, the anniversary of the Quit India Movement lakhs of people participated in a Jail Bharo programme with the slogan ‘Stop Corporate Loot’, ‘Save Farmer, Save India’, he told The Wire.