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The farmer’s protest has raised concerns over the sanctity of Indian Democracy.
Photo: IANS

The farmer’s protest has raised concerns over the sanctity of Indian Democracy.

Around 2 months ago, I had written an article on the farmer’s protest explaining the three farm bills passed in the Parliament. The farmers from all over the country had raised their concerns regarding the disbanding of the APMC/Mandi system and loss of Minimum Support Price. After months of protesting peacefully in Punjab, the farmers marched towards the national capital on November 25. The farmers facing road blocks, water cannons, tear gas and police brutality in Haryana and Delhi has raised concern over the sanctity of the Indian Democracy.

After a nationwide protest carried out on 25 September, the farmers organised a ‘Rail-Roko’ protest in Punjab. All trains, including goods and passenger trains, were barred from entering the state with farmers camping on the tracks. As a result, the supplies to not only Punjab but also to the Union Territories of Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh were cut off.

More than passengers, railway lines in Punjab have developed and evolved essentially in response to the needs of freight movement. Even during the height of terrorism, goods trains had never been stopped by the centre. As a result of goods trains not plying in the state, the state’s farm and industrial activity were amongst the worst hit. The state needed 14 lacs tonnes of urea to sow wheat, but had only around 15% of this demand. Due to shortage of coal with all five of the thermal plants, the state had to witness many power cuts.

Even after the farmers agreed to let the goods trains enter the state, the union government remained adamant on not resuming the goods trains services until the passenger trains are also allowed to run. On Monday, 24th November, the farmers unions agreed to stop the ‘rail-roko’ protest and let all train services to operate without any impediments.

Apart from the rail-block, the farmers have also been staging sit-ins at Toll Plazas in Punjab since October 1. On this account, the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) has suffered a loss of around ₹150 crores.

The major concern

Although, there are several concerns and demands of the farmer’s protest, the major concern remains the assurance of Minimum Support Price for the crops. Other concerns include the new environment ordinance providing for a ₹1 crore fine and jail time for farmers burning stubble as well as Electricity Bill, 2020 which could end power subsidies for farmers.

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 corporations.

In October, the Punjab Vidhan Sabha convened a special session and not only rejected the laws by a unanimous resolution but also passed three farm amendment bills removing Punjab from the ambit of the central laws. These are yet to receive assent from the Governor. After this, farmers in Haryana also sought support from their government.

Failing to receive any support from the state government, the farmers in Haryana staged protests and also blocked the Ambala-Delhi national highway. These protests were faced with ‘lathi'(cane)-charge by the police and registering criminal cases against the protestors, on charges of attempt to murder, instigating riots, etc.

After day long inconclusive meeting held between the centre and farmer unions on 13 November, the deadlock between both parties remained unresolved. Agriculture Minister, Narendra Singh Tomar, said further discussions were needed, as one meeting could not resolve all the issues. The centre government including the Prime Minister have verbally assured the farmers that the MSP regime will stay. But the farmers want the same to be included in either the new bills passed or in the National Food Security Act. The farmers believe that unless MSP is provided to them as a right, any government (present or future) might take it away from the farmers.

‘Dilli Chalo’ Protest

While the first ‘Dilli Chalo’ call was given by the farmers unions meeting held on 29 September, it was confirmed after the meeting held on 18 November in Chandigarh. Even when the central government was aware of this, they scheduled the meeting with the farmers union on 3 December. The farmers remained unwavering on the ‘Dilli Chalo’ call started marching towards the national capital on 25 November.

While the farmers marched from Punjab towards Delhi, the BJP-led Haryana government put up road blocks on Punjab-Haryana border to stop the farmers from crossing the state boundary. The farmers had been peacefully protesting for the past few months and wanted to move towards the national capital to arrange a peaceful protest. In a democracy, everybody has a right to move freely and stage peaceful protests. By denying the farmers their constitutional right, the Haryana and the union government have raised concerns over the democratic workings of our nation.

Determined to reach Delhi, tens of thousands of farmers braved tear-gas and water cannons, breaking police barricades at the Punjab-Haryana Border. The farmers remained unfazed by the heavy security deployment and barricading on the highways with mounds of earth and huge rocks. All this failed to stop the farmers on their tractors and trolleys filled with months of ration from proceeding to Delhi to stage a demonstration.

Centre treating protesting farmers like ‘terrorists’

Sanjay Raut, Shiv Sena MP

Videos of these inhuman and undemocratic sights of police brutality broke the internet and garnered widespread support towards the farmers. 26th November has been observed as the National Constitution Day since 2015 as a tribute to Dr. BR Ambedkar on his birth anniversary. Ironically, these unconstitutional acts were committed by the central government on this day itself. In a rare sight, representatives from both the ruling party and the opposition party in Punjab voiced out their support for the farmers on twitter. The tweets from Capt. Amarinder Singh, CM of Punjab and Harsimrat Kaur Badal, MP from Shiromani Akali Dal have been added below.

The heat from the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) protests had not even simmered down that the Modi government has another protest on their hands. The union government coming up with unprecedented bills and laws every now and then has got us worried if India is still a democracy. The nation is sick of listening to Prime Minister on national television at 8pm announcing yet another haphazardly implemented scheme. It is time to involve all stakeholders in the decision making process, exactly how a democracy functions. Don’t you agree?

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