Thousands of farmers – protesting against the government’s controversial agricultural laws – have planned a massive rally today to block the Delhi-Jaipur highway as they pledge to intensify their agitation, which started late November. Today’s rally will be followed by an all-India hunger strike on Monday when the demonstrators plan to hold protests at district offices. On Saturday, over 4,000 policemen were deployed in Gurgaon and Haryana to stop the farmers from occupying highways. The laws are meant to bring reforms and increase farmers’ income, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Saturday in what was seen as a renewed assurance from the government.
Farmers from Rajasthan and Haryana are expected to start their rally to the national capital via National Highway-48 (Delhi-Chennai highway). On Saturday, large group of protesters were stopped from blocking the main highway from Delhi to Agra. “We’re fully prepared to control the protests from escalating,” a senior Gurgaon cop told NDTV.
As protests escalate to seek repeal of laws, a group of 29 farmer leaders from Haryana met Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar on Saturday to show support to the new farm laws. “We will also protest if the government repeals the laws. We have given a memorandum to all districts,” Bharatiya Kisan Union (Mann) leader Guni Prakash told reporters after the meeting.
The farmers pledged to intensify protests despite the Prime Minister’s message on Saturday as he said: “We’ve taking all these initiatives to increase the farmers’ income and make them more prosperous. Reforms will help draw investment in agriculture and benefit farmers.”
A breakthrough in deadlock over controversial legislations is likely in the next 24 to 48 hours, Haryana Deputy Chief Minister Dushyant Chautala, a BJP ally, said on Saturday in a surprising claim. “I’m hopeful that there will be talks between the centre and the farmers will be fruitful. I’m hopeful that in the next 24 to 48 hours, there will be a final round of talks and the two sides will reach a conclusive solution,” he was quoted as saying by news agency ANI.
The Supreme Court will on Wednesday (December 16) hear three petitions related to the farmers’ protest. One of the petitions – filed by a student from Delhi – says the protests are blocking emergency health services needed to tackle the coronavirus pandemic
The second petition is linked to the use of force on farmers amid demonstrations, seeking compensation for them; while the third says the protesters should be allowed to enter Delhi.
Earlier this week, the protesters unanimously rejected the centre’s written offer of amendments in farm laws, and announced a series of plans to escalate their protest. A meeting with Amit Shah also failed to resolve the deadlock.
Farmers say they want nothing less than the new laws to be scrapped. A petition was filed on Friday in the Supreme Court by the Bharatiya Kisan Union that sought repeal them. The top court has already issued notices to the centre on a batch of petitions challenging the laws.
Thousands of farmers have been camping on the outskirts of Delhi since late November. They say the new laws will leave them at the mercy of corporates even as the government repeatedly assured the legislations bring much-needed reforms.
Opposition leaders across the country have backed their protest, urging the government for a rethink on the legislations.