What is ‘Delhi Chalo March’ by Punjab and Haryana Farmers?
Anger and protest against three agricultural laws has been boiling against September, ever since the government passed three agricultural bills. These bills altogether provide farmers with multiple marketing channels, it also breaks many monopolies, including government-regulated mandis (market yards), and provides a legal framework to enter pre-arranged contracts.
For the past few days, 26 November 2020, thousands of farmers from Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh have been marching towards the national capital and are gathering at the borders. The farmers have decided, through the Delhi Chalo March or Delhi Chalo Protest, to pressurize the government to withdraw the recently passed agricultural laws, and begin collecting at various entry points in the national capital, including the Tikri and Singhu borders.
Punjab farmers, representing over 30 farm bodies, announced that on November 26 and 27, they would go towards Delhi through many routes, including Lalru, Shambhu, Patiala-Pehowa, Patran-Khanauri, Moonak-Tohana, Ratia-Fatehabad and Talwandi-Sirsa to protest against the new farm laws besides pushing for other demands.
Who are the protestors in Punjab Haryana protest?
Haryana protesters are led by Gurnam Singh Chaduni. In 2019, assembly Gurnam contested the election from Ladwa constituency in Kurukshetra district, but in elections, he only received 1,307 votes. He was quite active in raising farmers issues and also led several protests across the state. He came into the limelight again, soon after the announcement by the Central Government of the three farm bills.
In recent times, an affidavit has also been filed in the Punjab and Haryana High Court, relating to the preventive arrests of several leaders, the Haryana government states that the majority of these groups in the protest “with a history of engaging in criminal activities”.
What are the reasons for farmer’s protest and their demands?
Farmers do not accept three new legislation’s- Farmers Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation); Price Assurance of Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement; And Farm Services and Essential Items (Amendment).
Farmers are demanding from the Center to either withdraw all three MLA’s or pass a new law after extensive consultations with stakeholders to guarantee a minimum support price (MSP) on their crops.
Farmers have expressed fears that the new laws will pave the way for the dismantling of the minimum support price system, leaving them at the mercy of big corporates. However, the Center has been reiterating repeatedly to assimilate protesting farmers that the new farm laws will not only help farmers to increase their income but also free them from the clutches of middlemen.
What are these bills about?
The first law relates to the Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC). Under this law, farmers will be able to sell their crops to other buyers other than government mandis. It also provides for the sale of their produce to other states. More interestingly, it allows farmers to sell their produce online. But the farmers are arguing that the central government wants to end the current system of minimum support price.
Due to this bill, the revenue earned by the states in the form of market fees will fall drastically. The total revenue earned by the Punjab government from these mandis is about 13 percent. There is also an argument that this will eliminate middlemen in the mandis.
Two more bills are also there but farmers are mainly concerned about the Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC). Farmers fear that this bill will abolish the minimum support price (MSP) of their produce by the government every year.
How did the farmers protest escalate to this situation?
Farmers of Haryana and Punjab are known for their uncompromising attitude. Any use of force by State will further agitate them. In October, a month after the Center enacted three agricultural legislators, the Punjab Legislative Assembly held a special session, which not only rejected the laws by a unanimous resolution, but also the three agricultural amendment bills removing Punjab from the ambit of central laws.
After Punjab, farmers in Haryana also get support from their government. However, failing to get a response, the farmers camped outside the residences of Deputy Chief Minister Dushyant Chautala and Power Minister Ranjit Chautala in Sisra. Dushyant and his party, Jananayak Janata Party (JJP), have been calling themselves the Kisan Party and are a major vote bank among the rural population. But Dushyant also partnered with the BJP and supported three Central Agricultural Legislatures.
Discussions were held between Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar and some farmer unions but failed to convince them of the new central laws. When the farmers realized that the Haryana government would not help them, they decided to march towards Delhi and pressurize the central government. Also in September, the Ambala-Delhi National Highway was blocked for more than three hours by farmers led by BKU President Gurnam Singh Chaduni. The police filed the criminal cases against the protesters, and also create charges on them of attempt to murder, charges to pursue farmers, who were later called for the ‘Delhi Chalo’ march.