“Accept our demands till January 25, or else the country will see its first democratic march of farmers and workers on the roads of the national capital.” The ultimatum came from the first press conference by the seven-member coordination committee of the ‘Samyukta Kisan Morcha’ – a body of farmers’ unions – in Delhi on Saturday.
Leaders from the organisations said: “We intend to be peaceful and we had told the Government of India during our talks long ago that there are only two options – either repeal the three central Farm Laws or use force to evict us. The time has come for decisive action and we have chosen January 26 both because Republic Day represents the supremacy of the people, and also because we would have demonstrated patiently and peacefully at Delhi’s borders for two full months in extreme weather conditions by then.”
The agitating farmers are demanding the repeal of the three recently-enacted Farm Laws which facilitate contract farming, the establishment of private mandis outside the jurisdiction of state laws and a withdrawal of stock limits for storing essential commodities. The farmers are also demanding a law which penalises private traders for procuring produce below a government-dictated minimum support price and (MSP) and a withdrawal of the Electricity Amendment Bill, 2020.
At the press conference, Krantikari Kisan Union president Darshan Pal said the farmers’ bodies will be holding demonstrations at the houses of governors in different states to express their anguish against the Farm Laws “which we consider a death sentence to the farming community. We will continue talks (with the government) because we believe in dialogue but there is very little ground to discuss and move forward. When the leaders asked the government representatives – union ministers Narendra Singh Tomar and Piyush Goel – if they agreed, in principle, about ensuring a minimum support price through a law, they flatly refused. Without the MSP law, we are not going back,” he added.
Bharatiya Kisan Union leader Gurnam Singh Chaduni said the farmers have been incurring estimated losses worth Rs four lakh crore. “The minimum support of maize is Rs 1,850 per quintal but the farmers are compelled to sell the produce at Rs 1,100 per quintal. A farmer’s produce is around 35 quintals in an acre; basically, the farmers are losing Rs 26,250 per acre. This was his profit too which he is losing to private traders. I believe we are losing Rs four lakh crore to plunder by private traders and hoarders. Let me cite another recent example. Much before the Farm Laws, the Maharashtra Government – through the backdoor – allowed hoarders to store grains without any limit. Seven companies including the Adani Group stored the produce in their silos. While the rates were low when there was less production they jumped enormously even when production was sound. It simply means that the agro-companies were manipulating rates by creating artificial demand,” he alleged.
The leaders emphasised that the government was resorting to manipulation on a day-to-day basis by lying. “We have not got a written statement from the government on accepted demands. So, it is incorrect to say that half the issues have been resolved as propagated by some sections of the media,” said Yogendra Yadav from the Jai Kisan Andolan.
Abhimanyu Kohar, spokesperson for the Rashtriya Kisan Mahasangh, said: “This is quite strange but not perplexing. In his address, Prime Minister Narendra Modi lied that his government gave MSP to farmers as per the Swaminathan Commission whereas his Attorney General submitted an affidavit before a Supreme Court bench comprising Justice N.V. Ramana stating that the government cannot give MSP.”
Ashok Dhawale, president, All India Kisan Sabha, maintained that it would be inappropriate to say that only farmers were leading the movement. “It is now a people’s movement and it will be impossible to muzzle the voices of common people from here on in. We are not going back unless the laws are repealed and an MSP law is passed. The people have been oppressed and humiliated for long. We will not accept it anymore. It was their mindless pursuit of neo-liberal policies which snatched four lakh farmers from their families. These families are in debt, battling poverty and starvation. For the people who are yet to ascertain the influence of the movement, let me reiterate that the movement is only getting stronger in West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and Rajasthan. The Kerala assembly rightfully passed a resolution in support of farmers. It is time for other assemblies to come forward and extend their support.”
In a press note, the Samyukt Kisan Morcha also announced their plan of action till January 26 to intensify and further the movement. A fortnight of nation-wide campaigning to counter the government’s narrative called the “Desh Jagriti Abhiyan” will take place between January 6 and 20. It will include rallies, conferences and dharnas all over the country.
Lohri/Sankaranti will be marked as Kisan Sankalp Diwas by burning copies of the three laws. January 18 will be celebrated as Mahila Kisan Diwas to underline the role of women farmers. Azad Hind Kisan Diwas will be marked on Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose’s birth anniversary on January 23 by protests outside the governors' official residences in all state capitals. In a press conference at the Singhu Border on Friday, the farmers announced that if talks with the Centre on January 5 do not succeed, farmers will march on the KMP Expressway on January 6 and that the Shahjahanpur blockade will also move towards Delhi subsequently.