Centre calls for talks yet again, but farmers seek ‘positive’ offer

Arjun Munda, Piyush Goyal, Nityanand Rai to lead talks; protesters have been stopped at Haryana’s boundary since February 13; police use tear gas, water cannon to disperse agitating farmers

February 14, 2024 09:42 pm | Updated February 15, 2024 08:54 am IST - CHANDIGARH

Farmers walk towards Delhi as part of their ‘Delhi Chalo’ protest near the Shambhu Barrier in Punjab on February 14, 2024.

Farmers walk towards Delhi as part of their ‘Delhi Chalo’ protest near the Shambhu Barrier in Punjab on February 14, 2024. | Photo Credit: SHASHI SHEKHAR KASHYAP

Even as protesting farmers from Punjab continue to camp near different locations on the boundary with Haryana, farmer representatives and Union Ministers will hold another set of talks on February 15 (Thursday). The farmers asserted that the meeting would be fruitful only if the government came out with something ‘positive’ to offer.

In Punjab’s Rajpura, farmer leaders said they had been invited by the Centre for deliberations on their demands on February 15 in Chandigarh. The meeting would be held with Union Ministers Arjun Munda, Piyush Goyal and Nityanand Rai.

“We are camping peacefully at inter-State boundaries with Haryana. We conveyed to the Centre that we are not averse to the meeting, although we expect that the government should first create a positive atmosphere. On the one hand the government in Haryana is resorting to the use of tear gas and water cannons and on the other they are speaking about talks. They have assured us that the situation would be normalised,” Jagjit Singh Dallewal, a senior SKM(NP) leader, told The Hindu.

“The government needs to show a positive attitude towards our demand only then the meeting would be fruitful. Talks for the sake of talk would not resolve anything,” he said.

Also read: Punjab’s resolute farmers set out to test Haryana’s thorny defences

Third meeting

After the first two meetings remained inconclusive, this will be the third meeting between the farmer leaders and the Centre over their demands, including giving a legal guarantee to the Minimum Support Price (MSP). 

On February 13, scores of farmers from different parts of Punjab started their ‘tractor-trolley’ march to lay siege to Delhi to press for fulfillment of their demands. As farmers reached Haryana’s Shambu village near Ambala and Khanauri-Jind, the boundary with Punjab, they were stopped from entering Haryana. The Haryana government had put in place elaborate security arrangements with multi-layer barricades, and since then the farmers have been camping near the State boundary. Police resorted to the use of tear gas to disperse agitating farmers on Wednesday.

Haryana Director General of Police Shatrujit Kapoor said Section 144 had been imposed in 15 districts of the State, and considering the present situation, 64 companies of paramilitary forces and 50 companies of the Haryana Police were deployed.

Also read: ‘Delhi Chalo’ protest: Supreme Court Bar Association urges CJI to initiate suo motu action against erring farmers

The Kisan Mazdoor Morcha and the Sanyukta Kisan Morcha (Non-Political) — the two umbrella bodies of around 200 farmers’ and farm labourer unions — had given the call for the ‘Delhi Chalo’ march.

Hospitals put on alert

Meanwhile, in Punjab all hospitals adjoining the Haryana boundary have been put on high alert, and emergency services are being provided 24x7. Punjab Health and Family Welfare Minister Balbir Singh said at least 40 injured were admitted to the Rajpura civil hospital of whom two sustained serious head injuries and were undergoing treatment. He condemned the Haryana government for “unprovoked police action at protesting farmers”. Mr. Singh said the Haryana government had no right to stop farmers who were peacefully heading to Delhi to hold protests. “National highway is the property of nation and farmers were just to pass from Haryana’s jurisdiction to reach Delhi,” he said, terming the role of the Haryana government unconstitutional and illegal. The Minister urged the BJP-led Haryana government to let the farmers reach the national capital to raise their demands peacefully.

Also read: Huge security deployment, multi-layered barricading at borders to stop farmers’ ‘Delhi Chalo’ march

Haryana Home Minister Anil Vij blamed the Punjab government for intending to create chaos in Delhi by not making any effort to stop farmers. “When these groups [farmers] marched from Amritsar, the Punjab government did not make any effort to stop them anywhere on the way. This means they want to create chaos in Delhi,” he said in a statement.

Coming in support of the ongoing protest and against the use of force against farmers by the Haryana government, the Bharatiya Kisan Union (Ugrahan), one of the largest outfits in Punjab, has announced to block rail traffic at seven places in Punjab on February 15 from noon to 4 p.m. Also, the Punjab chapter of the Samkyukt Kisan Morcha (SKM) would make ‘toll plazas’ free across Punjab between 11 a.m. till 1 p.m.

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