New Delhi: To extend their support for “Bharat Bandh” call given by farmers protesting in outskirts of New Delhi over three farm laws passed by the Indian government this year in September, a number of political parties have joined hands to to demand withdrawal of these retrograde Agri-laws and the Electricity Amendment  Bill.

“We the undersigned leaders of political parties extend our solidarity with the ongoing massive struggle by the Indian farmers organised by various kisan organisations from across the country and extend our  support to their call for a Bharat bandh on December 8 demanding the withdrawal of these retrograde Agri-laws and the Electricity Amendment  Bill,” the leaders said including Indian National Congress president Sonia Gandhi, DMK President M K Stalin, NCP president Sharad Pawar, RJD leader Tejaswi Yadav, PAGD chairman Farooq Abdullah, SP president Akhilesh Yadav, General Secretary , CPI(M) Sitaram Yechury, General Secretary, CPI D Raja, General Secretary, CPI(ML) Dipankar Bhattacharya, General Secretary of AIFB Debabarata Biswas and AIFB General Secretary Manoj Bhattacharya, said in a statement.

They said: “These new Agri-Laws passed in the Parliament in a brazen anti-democratic manner preventing a structured discussion and voting, threaten India’s food security, destroy Indian agriculture and our farmers, lay the basis for the abolishment of the Minimum Support Price (MSP) and mortgage Indian agriculture and our markets to the caprices of multi-national agri-business corporates and domestic corporates”.

The GoI must adhere to the democratic processes and norms and meet the legitimate demands of our Kisans-Annadatas, the leaders demanded.

According to reports, the protesting farmers have decided to occupy all highway toll gates across the country and not allow the government to collect tolls as part of the December 8 strike.

“More people will join our movement,” a report by NDTV quoted Harinder Singh Lakhowal, a leader of one of the protesting groups, as having said during a news conference.

Quoting the farmer groups, the report said that in their talks with the government they have asked for the withdrawal of the three laws that they say will leave them at the mercy of large corporations and override safeguards against being cheated.

Announcing the escalation of their protest, the farmers, who faced a “brutal police crackdown” in Haryana last week before being allowed to hold a peaceful demonstration on the outer fringes of Delhi, said they will take to burning effigies on Saturday, the report said.

“We see the government agreeing to our demands on Minimum Support Price, electricity and penalties for stubble burning but we won’t stop till the laws are repealed,” Satnam Singh Ajnala, President of the Jamhoori Kisan Sabha, Punjab, told NDTV.

Earlier on Thursday, the fourth round of talks between the government and around 40 farmers’ unions failed to make headway, but a cabinet minister said they would continue discussions on Saturday.

Pertinently, anger against the GoI has been simmering since the month of September when the parliament of India passed three farm laws. From last many days, thousands of farmers from Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh have been marching toward the New Delhi and are nearing the borders.

After failing to garner support from their respective state governments, the farmers have decided to mount pressure on the GoI, due to which they are coming to Delhi.

In UP and Haryana, BJP led governments have failed to convince farmers, however, governments of Rajasthan and Punjab have extended full support to their agitation.

Farmers want GoI to either withdraw the three legislations or guarantee them the minimum support price (MSP) for their crops by introducing a new law.

Gurnam Singh Chaduni is leading the protestors from Haryana. Gurnam had contested the 2019 Assembly elections from Ladwa constituency in Kurukshetra district, but got only 1,307 votes. However, he was quite active in raising farmers’ issues and led several protests across the state.

Apart from Gurnam, several national and regional farm unions, comprising many leaders, have joined hands under the umbrella banner of Samyukt Kisan Morcha.

As farmers do not accept the three new legislations — The Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation); The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance; and Farm Services and The Essential Commodities (Amendment), they believe the laws will open agricultural sale and marketing outside the notified Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC) mandis for farmers, remove the barriers to inter-state trade, and provide a framework for electronic trading of agricultural produce.

Since the state governments will not be able to collect market fee, cess or levy for trade outside the APMC markets, farmers believe the laws will gradually end the mandi system and leave farmers at the mercy of corporates.

They are also of the opinion that dismantling the mandi system will bring an end to the assured procurement of their crops at MSP. Similarly, farmers believe the price assurance legislation may offer protection to farmers against price exploitation, but will not prescribe the mechanism for price fixation.

Farmers are demanding the government guarantee MSP in writing, or else the free hand given to private corporate houses will lead to their exploitation.

 

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