Centre yet to fulfil promises it made to farmers: Samyukt Kisan Morcha

The SKM suspended its agitation in November 2021 after the Centre’s repeal of three farm laws, along with its commitments regarding a legal guarantee on MSP and withdrawal of cases against protestors

March 19, 2023 06:36 pm | Updated March 20, 2023 08:52 am IST - NEW DELHI

Social activist Medha Patkar speaks in presence of Samyukt Kisan Morcha leaders Darshan Pal and Hannan Mollah during a press conference in New Delhi on March 19, 2023 ahead of a “kisan mahapanchayat” at Ramlila Ground on March 20, 2023.

Social activist Medha Patkar speaks in presence of Samyukt Kisan Morcha leaders Darshan Pal and Hannan Mollah during a press conference in New Delhi on March 19, 2023 ahead of a “kisan mahapanchayat” at Ramlila Ground on March 20, 2023. | Photo Credit: ANI

Sixteen months after the Centre agreed to repeal three contentious farm marketing laws, ending a massive year-long farmers’ protest on the borders of the national capital, the group that led the agitation plans to reconvene a gathering in Delhi’s vast Ramlila Ground on March 19 to remind the Centre about the other unfulfilled promises it made before the protestors dispersed in November 2021.

The Samyukt Kisan Morcha, a coordinating coalition of the protesting farmers’ groups, will hold a kisan mahapanchayat, or a large gathering of farmers, to demand that the Centre fulfil its commitments regarding a law to ensure minimum support prices for all crops, as well as to withdraw cases filed against protestors during the agitation.

‘Next round of protests’

“The farm laws were withdrawn, but if the Centre continues to ignore the assurances given to us at the time of suspension of the agitation, we will strengthen the protests. The Mahapanchayat will be the beginning of the next round of nationwide protests,” senior SKM leader Hannan Mollah, who is also vice president of Left-aligned All India Kisan Sabha, told journalists on Sunday.

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SKM leaders also urged the Centre to immediately withdraw the Electricity (Amendment) Bill, which is now being considered by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Energy. “The Centre had promised that it will consult the SKM on the Electricity (Amendment) Bill. But no one has contacted us yet. Our stand is complete withdrawal of the Bill. If implemented, it will result in a 200 to 300% increase in power bills,” Mr. Mollah added.

‘Peaceful programme’

Another senior SKM leader Darshan Pal, who is also president of Punjab’s Krantikari Kisan Union, said that if the Delhi Police or other authorities tried to block farmers from entering Delhi or the Ramlila Ground, they would not hesitate to sit at the borders yet again. “Farmers have started coming to Delhi. It will be a peaceful programme where farmers will voice their problems. The authorities should not try to block it,” Dr. Pal said.

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Earlier on Sunday, the SKM constituents held a meeting and condemned the “pro-corporate thrust in development”, and said that the Centre was undermining farm incomes and instead facilitating the snatching of farmland, forest reserves and natural resources to help corporate profits.

“SKM leaders shall speak in details about the impact of this policy on farmers, adivasi farmers, women farmers, agricultural and migrant labour, rural workers, unemployment and rising cost of living and declining purchasing power at the Mahapanchayat on Monday,” the SKM leaders said.

Pending demands

They listed their demands and the Centre’s unfulfilled commitments: a law to guarantee MSP for all crops, using the Swaminathan Commission formula; dismissal of the MSP committee constituted by the Centre and forming of a new committee with due representation of farmers groups; waiver of all farm loans; the dismissal of Union Minister of State for Home Affairs Ajay Mishra Teni for his alleged involvement in a conspiracy to murder four protesting farmers and a journalist in an incident at Lakhimpur Kheri; compensation and jobs for the Lakhimpur Kheri victims; comprehensive crop insurance and pension of ₹5000 per month for all farmers and agriculture workers; and the promised withdrawal of the Electricity (Amendment) Bill.

“The fake cases which have been registered against the farmers in BJP-ruled States, and other States and Union Territories, during the farm movement, should be withdrawn immediately. Land allocation should be made for the construction of a memorial for the martyred farmers at Singhu Morcha,” the SKM leaders demanded.

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