Lucknow: Farmers from Uttar Pradesh held protests at several places against the hike in fuel and LPG gas prices on Thursday under the banner of the Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU). Protesters parked their tractors and other vehicles on the side of the road and shouted slogans against the BJP-led Central Government over the rising prices of petrol, diesel and cooking gas, demanding that the rates be halved with immediate effect.
Agitating farmers also honked their vehicles for ten minutes, saying it was done to "wake up the government from its slumber". They said it was necessary since the government was not paying heed to their demands – repeal the three Farm Laws and a provide legal guarantee for Minimum Support Price (MSP) – despite their continued agitation for over seven months. Groups of farmers was seen pulling their tractors as a mark of protest against the rising fuel prices at several places.
The call for the protest – from 10 am till 12 noon – was given by the Samyukt Kisan Morcha (SKM), the organisation spearheading the agitation against the Centre's three farm laws.
Accusing the government of not being able to control the prices of essential commodities, Satpal Malik, a farmer from Muzaffarnagar, said: "A tractor requires three to four litres of diesel per hour on an average which costs around Rs 400 to Rs 500 a day at the current rates. If we use a bullock it will cost us only Rs 100 per day, but farmers turn to a tractor for its speed. The amount of work that the machine can finish within five to six hours is finished by the animal over two and half days. So an increase in diesel prices is directly hampering the farmers," he told Newsclick, adding that prices of fuel and LPG should be reduced.
He said that the farmers' protest, which had begun with the three laws, is now raising every issue concerning the farmers and laymen. He said that the high diesel prices have pushed farming back to the "medieval period" and peasants have been forced to adopt older methods of farming due to the steep rise.
Meanwhile, scores of farmers in Jalaun on the Jhansi-Kanpur highway (NH-27) shouted slogans against the government. The farmers alleged that the fuel price hike had hit the the monthly budgets of all families, that too during a pandemic, when incomes have fallen. They blamed the Centre for acting on the behalf of big corporates and not caring about the farmers and those who voted for them.
"We have not yet been able to recover our losses due to the second wave of COVID-19. An unprecedented hike in petroleum products has put an extra burden on the farmer and the common man. Instead of reducing or controlling the prices, the Centre has been on a continuous spree to increase prices just to pass on the benefit to their captialist friends," he said.
The SKM, which has been intensifying the agitation against the farm laws, has also planned a fresh round of protests during the Monsoon session of Parliament scheduled for later this month. About 200 protesters will agitate outside the Parliament building on a daily basis then, reiterating their demands of repealing the three farm laws, the farmers have said.
TRACTOR MARCH FROM SHAMLI TO GHAZIPUR
In a show of strength, a batch of farmers from Shamli and Baghpat region took out a "tractor rally" on Thursday; it will reach the Ghazipur Border on July 9 or 10. Another such rally will start from Bijnor on July 24 and will head towards the same border via Meerut.
"About 200 tractors from Shamli left for the Ghazipur border today. They will halt at three to four places where farmers from other areas will join the caravan with their vehicles. We have already intensified our protest in villages soon after harvest season ended and farmers are ready to reach the border with renewed energy. Several rounds of mahapanchayats are being held in every district to prepare a roadmap and discuss strategy under the supervision of Rakesh Tikiat," the BKU district head told Newsclick.
He added that lakhs of farmers with their vehicles are ready to join the protest at Ghazipur and Singhu border but were waiting for the "right time" and Tikait's call. "The protest will go on as the stir has now become a revolution of ideas. We are ready with our tractors and whatever vehicles we have and are waiting for a call from our leader Rakesh Tikait. We will not let the seven months of struggle of our brothers go in vain," he told Newsclick.
Earlier, in another tractor rally from western Uttar Pradesh, thousands of farmers from Saharanpur, Muzaffarnagar and Meerut took out a similar tractor march on June 24. It was led by BKU president Naresh Tikait and ended the next day at Ghazipur Border. The farmers are marching to ensure that the momentum of the ongoing agitation against the Centre’s farm laws stays intact.