New Delhi: Amid protests by farmers in Delhi outskirts over three farm laws passed by the Parliament of India this year in September, an indefinite relay hunger strike has begun as farmers their harden.

So far, as five rounds of negotiations have failed, the BJP government on Sunday asked the protesting farmers to choose a date for the next round of talks. The relay hunger strike is the third major national event staged by the farmers after a countrywide shutdown earlier this month, which was backed by opposition parties and trade unions, and last week’s hunger strike by farmer leaders. The stir has been intensifying amid repeated assurances from the government on the minimum support price or MSP; farmers say they want the laws repealed.

In a letter to 40 farmer leaders, the government on Sunday said it’s making all efforts with “an open heart” to find an appropriate solution to resolve all the concerns raised by farmers. India’s Agriculture Ministry Joint Secretary Vivek Aggarwal urged the representatives to provide details of their remaining concerns.

On Sunday, the protesters gave a call to intensify the stir as numbers swell at Delhi’s borders. Swaraj India chief Yogendra Yadav, who is one of the leaders of the protest, told reporters: “We will hold an indefinite relay hunger strike here, in which 11 people will take it in turns to fast for 24 hours each.”

The protesters also appealed to people across the country to skip a meal on Farmers’ Day or Kisan Diwas on Wednesday “to honour the men and women who put food on your table for three meals a day”.

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 weeks, 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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