On Wednesday, farmer leaders rejected a government proposal to amend the new agri laws, and announced they would intensify their agitation by blocking the Jaipur-Delhi and the Delhi-Agra expressways by Saturday, and escalating it to a nationwide protest on December 14.
The All India Kisan Sabha Punjab general secretary Major Singh Punawal said on Friday that the Jaipur-Delhi Expressway will be blocked by December 12.
This comes after the sixth round of talks between the government and farm union leaders, which was scheduled for Wednesday morning, was cancelled.
The farmer leaders have been adamant on their demand to scrap the laws, which they say will lead to dismantling of the Minimum Support Price (MSP) mechanism and mandis that ensure earning.
The government has been defending these laws, saying they will benefit the farmers in the long run and raise their incomes.
Meanwhile, agriculture minister Narendra Singh Tomar on Friday said some “anti-social elements” were conspiring to spoil the atmosphere of the peasant’s agitation under the guise of farmers and appealed the protesting farming community to be vigilant against their platform being misused.
He also said the government was sensitive towards farmers and is in discussion with them and their representatives to resolve their concerns.
“A proposal to resolve the farmers’ objection has also been sent to the farmers union and the government is ready for further discussion,” Tomar tweeted.
Tagging a media report about posters coming up at farmers’ Tikri Border protest site demanding release of some activists arrested under various charges, Tomar said, “Anti-social elements are conspiring to spoil the atmosphere of the peasant movement under the guise of farmers.”
“I appeal to the peasant brothers to be vigilant and not provide their platform to such anti-social elements,” he added.
Thousands of farmers have been staying put at Delhi border points- Singhu, Tikri, Ghazipur and Chilla (Delhi-Noida) — for nearly two weeks against the Centre’s new farm laws.
At least five rounds of formal talks have taken place between the central government and representatives of thousands of farmers, mainly from Punjab and Haryana, but the deadlock has continued with the unions sticking to their main demand for the repeal of the three contentious laws and repeatedly rejecting the centre’s offer to make some changes in law and give written assurances or clarifications on few issues such as MSP and mandi systems.
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi attacked the government, alleging that it wants the income of farmers in the country to be as low as that earned by those in Bihar.
The former party chief cited a media report that claimed that an agricultural household in Punjab earns the highest in a year, while it was lowest in Bihar.
“The farmer wants his income to be as much as that of farmers of Punjab. The Modi government wants the income of all farmers of the country to be as much as that of Bihar farmers,” Gandhi said in a tweet in Hindi.
In a related development, the Congress and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in Punjab will hold separate state level protests on December 14 to express solidarity with the farmers.
Both the parties said they stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the protesting farmers and will leave no stone unturned in getting their voices heard.
Punjab Congress president Sunil Jakhar said on Friday that his party will hold a large demonstration at Shambu (inter-state) border on December 14 in support of the farmers.
AAP state unit president and Sangrur MP Bhagwant Mann also announced his party’s whole-hearted support to the call given by the protesting farmers to intensify their agitation and escalate it to a nationwide protest on December 14.
In a fresh development, Bharatiya Kisan Union leader Rakesh Tikait said if the government wanted to talk to farmer leaders that should be formally conveyed like in previous occasions, said, asserting that anything less than scrapping of the new agri-laws would not be accepted.
“They (government) should first tell us when and where they want to meet us as they did for previous formal talks. If they invite us for talks, we will discuss that with our coordination committee and then take a decision,” Tikait said.
Samajwadi Party president Akhilesh Yadav accused the BJP of adopting a “heartless attitude” towards the demands of farmers and said the global response to their protest has “deeply” hurt the image of India worldwide.
His party has been backing the farmers’ protest against the Centre’s three new farm laws.
“The BJP government is ignoring farmers by adopting a heartless attitude towards the justified demands of the agitators shivering on the streets. The global response that is coming to this has deeply hurt the democratic image of India worldwide. The BJP government should stop exploiting those who feed us,” Yadav said in a tweet.
The Samajwadi Party (SP) president has asked party workers to organise peaceful sit-ins at district headquarters on December 14 in support of the farmers’ agitation, a party statement said.
On the other hand, the BJP has decided to hold nationwide programmes to highlight the benefits of the three farm laws. With some farmer unions intensifying their protest against the central government over the recent agri reforms, the BJP has decided to hold nationwide programmes, including ‘chaupal’ in rural areas, to highlight the benefits of three farm laws.
Party sources said events, including press conferences and public programmes, will be held in most of the over 700 districts of the country in this regard.
The development comes amid opposition parties’ united support to the farmers’ protest and attack on the Narendra Modi government over the issue.
The BJP has accused its rivals of misleading the farmers over the farm reforms and has alleged that opposition parties have been inciting them for selfish political interests.