Mumbai: Amid protests by farmers in Delhi outskirts against three contentious farm laws passed by the parliament of India in September 2020, thousands of farmers from 21 districts of Maharashtra gathered at Nashik on Saturday and are marching to cover the 180 kilometres to state capital Mumbai, where they will hold a massive rally Monday at the city’s iconic Azad Maidan.
The Rajya Sabha Member and Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar, whose party is a member of the ruling Maha Vikas Aghadi government, is expected to attend that rally, a report by NDTV said.
The report said that a huge number of farmers carrying flags and carrying banners made their way their way through the roads of the Kasara Ghat region between the two cities today. The farmers from the state, according to the report, belong to different unions but gathered under a common banner All India Kisan Sabha. The rally is expected to reach Mumbai in a few hours.
Earlier, Pawar speaking in favour of the farmers warned the BJP led government of India of “consequences” if it failed to understand their sentiments. In a similar warning last year, Pawar said that GoI should not test the farmers’ patience.
The Nashik farmers’ march comes two days before a headline-grabbing tractor rally in Delhi on Republic Day. Over a thousand tractors are expected to take part in the rally that will be held along the Ring Road (which encircles the city), and permission for which has been sought from Delhi Police.
On Saturday, Delhi farmers said they had received permission but this was swiftly contradicted by the police; Commissioner SN Shrivastava told NDTV the cops had yet to get written details of the route.
The GoI, which has held 11 failed negotiations with the farmers, is against the rally; it told the Supreme Court the event would be an “embarrassment for the nation”.
A request to the court to halt the rally was turned down, with the decision left to the police. The court had earlier upheld the farmers’ right to hold a peaceful protest, as long as it did not damage property or threaten lives, the report mentioned.
Pertinently, anger against the GoI has been simmering since September 2020 when the parliament of India passed three ‘contentious’ farm laws. Since then, 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 have set up their camps at Delhi borders
In UP and Haryana, BJP led governments have failed to address farmers issues, 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.