New Delhi: In solidarity with the farmers protesting in Delhi against the three new laws passed by the Parliament of India this year in September, an apex body of transporters has threatened to halt the movement of essential goods across North India and subsequently the entire country if the demands of the farmers protesting are not fulfilled.
The All-India Motor Transport Congress (AIMTC), an umbrella body of goods’ vehicles operators representing about 10 million truckers, called for a strike from December 8 in support of the farmers’ protest, Hindustan Times reported.
“From December 8 onwards, we will shut all our operations across North India and stop all our vehicles across North Indian states and UTs [Union Territories] including Delhi, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Himachal, and Jammu [& Kashmir]. We have decided that if the government still does not agree to the demands of the protesting farmers, then we will call for a Chakka Jam all across India and stop all our vehicles,” the report quoted AIMTC president Kultaran Singh Atwal as having said.
According to the Union road transport and highways ministry, road transport accounts for about 60% of the freight traffic in India and 87% of its passenger traffic.
In a statement, the AIMTC said the transporters are extending unstinted support to the farmer agitation.
“They are fighting for their legitimate rights. Like the road transport sector of India, the farm sector is indeed the backbone and lifeline of the nation…Over 70 percent of the rural households depend on agriculture. Entire North India is affected and thousands of trucks carrying food, vegetables, and other perishable and non-perishable items coming from Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, J&K [Jammu & Kashmir] are impacted and we still support them as 65% of the trucks are engaged in carrying farm produce,” the statement said.
“…it is the season of apples, which are getting wasted, apart from that potatoes, onions and other fruits and vegetables as well as other essential commodities like medicines, milk, etc as their movement is disrupted, which is leading to their shortage in Delhi and in other northern states. The situation will get acute in days to come unless the government takes prudent and pragmatic steps to resolve farmers’ concerns… [The farmers] are fighting their lone battle.”
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 a 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.