New Delhi: One among the farmers protesting over three farm laws passed by the Indian Parliament this year in September, has lost his life on Wednesday night due to an intense cold near the Delhi-Haryana border, taking the death toll of farmers to 20 since the agitation began in November.
The 37-year-old man, a father of three, was found dead at a site where thousands of farmers have been protesting for 22 days against farm laws, a Delhi-based news organisation NDTV reported.
The report added that the deceased farmer had three children of ages 10, 12 and 14, according to reports that suggested he died of the freezing cold.
Reports of the death emerged hours after a Sikh priest died by suicide near the epicentre of the protests at the Delhi-Haryana border. Baba Ram Singh, a priest from a Gurdwara in Haryana, had strongly supported the protests and left a note saying he was “angry and pained” at the government’s injustice.
Ever since the agitation over what protestors term “black laws” passed by the Parliament of India, began in November-end, farmer groups claim more than 20 farmers have lost their lives. Many are believed to have suffered because of the rising winter chill and a cold wave sweeping north India, the report said.
Several volunteers have been visiting the farmers, who have occupied various points on highways near Delhi, with blankets and heaters. Protesters are also seen lighting fires to keep warm, determined to stay for the long haul.
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.