One week after they began protests on the borders of Delhi, farmers’ groups have demanded that the Centre call a special session of Parliament to repeal three new agriculture reform laws. If their demands are not met, they threatened to “choke” the capital by blocking more highways entering the city. A truckers’ confederation also threatened a strike in northern India from December 8 in support of farmers.
“Our demand is non-negotiable. We want the three laws repealed immediately,” said Krantikari Kisan Union president Darshan Pal on the eve of the fourth round of talks with the government. “We will give our written objections, and we will sit for discussions one, two, three, four days but as long as our demand is not met, we will intensify the struggle here and in the rest of the country. The other borders of Delhi will be sealed as well, and the city will be even more choked,” he said, speaking at a joint press conference of the protest leadership on the Singhu border point on Wednesday. The leaders said they were not willing to get bogged down in a clause by clause discussion as their demand remained full repeal.
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The Centre is only willing to consider more limited revisions of the laws. Senior sources in the BJP told The Hindu that while providing a legal safeguard for minimum support prices or writing it into the law is not something that the government wants to do, adequate safeguards within the Agricultural Produce Market Committee structure could be considered.
“Even though there have been complaints from farmers themselves that there have been cases of exploitation within the APMC structure, further safeguards can be added as per what the farmers want,” said a senior leader. The second demand that could be looked into is the grievance redress mechanism under the new laws which makes the district administration very powerful, said the source.
The protesters are widening their scope and their allies. The All-India Motor Transport Congress, the apex truckers’ body, will go on a strike in north India from December 8 in support of the farmers’ agitation, said its president Kultaran Singh Atwal. He told The Hindu that the strike would spread to the whole country if the Centre failed to heed the farmers’ demands.
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The Bharatiya Kisan Union-Tikait group, which has been blocking highways in Uttar Pradesh in a separate protest, and had a separate meeting with Cabinet Ministers on Wednesday, has also joined hands with the wider movement for now. “The Centre has been trying to divide the farmers’ movement by negotiating separately with different groups. This is not only a struggle of the Punjab farmers any more. We are a national movement jointly fighting under the Samyukt Kisan Morcha banner,” said Mr. Pal, urging other farmers’ and social movements to hold solidarity protests.
On December 7, sportspersons and ex-servicemen supporting the farmers will return their awards and medals to the Central government. Asserting that large corporates will benefit from the new laws at the expense of farmers, protest leaders called for burning the effigies of industrialists Mukesh Ambani and Gautam Adani on December 5 in every village, along with the effigies of the Prime Minister.
(With inputs from Jagriti Chandra)