Why are farmers protesting again? | Explained

What is the primary demand of the farmers who are currently camped out near different locations on the Haryana border? Why have meetings with the Union government failed? What is the government’s stance with respect to purchasing crops at Minimum Support Price?

February 20, 2024 10:28 pm | Updated February 25, 2024 05:12 pm IST

Farmers shout slogans during a protest demanding minimum crop prices near the Haryana-Punjab state border at Shambhu in Patiala district on February 20.

Farmers shout slogans during a protest demanding minimum crop prices near the Haryana-Punjab state border at Shambhu in Patiala district on February 20. | Photo Credit: AFP

The story so far: On February 13, groups of farmers heeded a call given by the Kisan Mazdoor Morcha and the Samyukta Kisan Morcha (non-political) and began a march to the national capital, to press for fulfilment of their demands, which include a legal guarantee for purchasing crops at Minimum Support Price (MSP) and a farm loan waiver.

How has the march progressed?

While farmers from different States have reportedly started heading for Delhi, it has been largely from Punjab that scores of farmers started their ‘tractor-trolley’ march to reach Delhi via Haryana. As farmers arrived at Shambhu-Ambala and Khanauri-Jind, the inter-state boundary between Haryana-Punjab, they were stopped from entering Haryana. The Haryana government had put in place elaborate security arrangements with multi-layer barricades, which included iron nails, barbed wires, concrete barricade-blocks, boulders, trenches and anti-riot vehicles on the roads bordering Punjab. Additionally, the police resorted to the use of tear gas through drones, and water cannons to disperse the agitating farmers. Police-farmer clashes ensued when farmer groups attempted to enter Haryana by pushing and throwing away the multi-layer barricades.

Also Read: Farmers’ protest 2024 live updates | Haryana Police fire tear gas to disperse protesters as Delhi march resumes

Massive deployment of police and paramilitary personnel have been put in place in areas bordering Delhi to stop protesting farmers from entering the city. As the stand-off continues, farmers from Punjab have been camping near different locations on the inter-state boundary with Haryana and are set to resume their march on February 21.

What about talks between the two?

So far, four rounds of meetings have been held between the Union government and farmer leaders but they have not resulted in anything concrete. On February 18, after the latest meeting between Union Ministers Arjun Munda, Piyush Goyal, Nityanand Rai and farmer leaders Jagjit Singh Dallewal and Sarwan Singh Pandher, the government offered to procure five crops on MSP by entering into a contract for five years. The protesting farmers, however, rejected the government’s offer.

Watch | Delhi Chalo march | Why are farmers protesting again?

According to Sarwan Singh Pandher, coordinator of the Kisan Mazdoor Morcha, the proposal presented during the fourth meeting was different than what the Union Ministers disclosed before the media after the meeting was over. He pointed out that in the meeting it was proposed that the government would purchase five crops including masoor (lentil), urad (black gram), arhar (pigeon peas), maize, and cotton at the MSP. However, what was conveyed after the meeting was that the buying would be done for five years under contractual agreements. This, Mr. Pandher said was not acceptable, and hence the offer was rejected. According to Samyukta Kisan Morcha leaders, the government should clarify whether the MSP they proposed is based on the A2+FL+ 50% method (input cost and family labour) or at the rate of C2 (input cost and rent of the land)+50%. They asserted that there has been no transparency in the discussions.

What are the primary demands?

The primary concern of the protesting farmers is that no law on MSP has been enacted yet, and that the Union government is turning a blind eye to their other demands despite repeated appeals. The MSP is the price at which the government promises, on paper, to procure agricultural produce from farmers. There are MSPs for 22 crops, primarily grains, pulses and oil seeds, paddy and copra. According to studies, only a small share of farmers in the country benefits from MSPs. Farmers accuse that even as the government promised to look into their demands during the earlier agitation, it has been going slow on its commitments.

What has been government’s stance?

The Union government has repeatedly asserted that announcing a guaranteed MSP will not be possible. The Union Agriculture Minister Arjun Munda told the media that for a law on guaranteed MSP, the Centre would have to look at all sides.

The ongoing farmers’ protest rekindled memories of the year-long agitation by farmers during 2020-21 when scores of farmers camped at several places around Delhi’s borders. Back then, farmers were demanding a repeal of the three farm laws enacted by the Union government, which they asserted were detrimental to the interests of the agricultural community. These included the Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, and the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act. The laws were rolled back in 2021 by the Centre. One of the key demands included a guarantee for purchasing crops at MSP.

Other demands include a complete loan waiver for the farmers and farm labour, a monthly pension for 58-year-old farmers/farm labourers, withdrawal of the Electricity Amendment Bill, 2020, reintroduction of the Land Acquisition Act, 2013 to ensure farmers consent and compensation at four times the collector rate, 200 days of employment annually at a daily wage of ₹700 under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act etc.

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