Wazihul, 19, describes the humanitarian and health crisis caused by hasty barricading of farmers protests sites at Singhu and Ghazipur borders. But protesters were not disheartened, he says
I am an engineering student and I feel strongly about the ongoing farmer protests, which is why I ensure that I extend my support to them whenever and wherever possible. Sometimes I go to the Ghazipur Border, which is closer home and sometimes to the Singhu Border, to express my solidarity with the farmers. Post the turn of events on Republic Day and in anticipation of the Chakka Jam on February 6, the government decided to barricade the farmers wherever they were positioned.
The hasty barricading was done using nails, concrete and barbed wires at the Ghazipur site and blocking even water tankers at Singhu. Clearly, not much thought was put into it. Which is why for many days the farmers couldn’t make use of portable toilets at Singhu Border. This was no less than a humanitarian and health crisis.
Even the policemen on duty and the public which had come in to extend support to farmers, were using whatever few facilities were functional. I leave it to your imagination to understand the situation created by the heartless and mindless decision. Women were having the most difficult time because of the lack of public facilities. Some were forced to relieve themselves in the open.
In times like these, when the pandemic hasn’t yet subsided (and even otherwise) hygiene is of paramount importance, the basic facilities should have been taken care of.
One of the things which I noticed was that the langar sewa, a lifeline of sorts for the protesting farmers, was also affected because of the protest sites being turned into literal fortresses. Perishable grocery items were difficult to reach because of the bandobast.
Earlier, we could access the main protest site directly, but later we had to take a long detour to reach the spot. Needless to say that this path was full of mounds of waste materials and one needed to be extremely careful while entering and exiting the protest site.
Even though the farmers and their supporters were disappointed with the measures in place, they were certainly not dispirited. In what can be said to be an extremely impressive step, as far as marks of protest go, the farmers planted various saplings of flowering plants as well as vegetables etc. Talk about keel ka jawab paudhon se dena (a fitting response by planting saplings to defy steel spikes).
The whole world is watching us and I feel that the way the government is treating the farmers is not in good taste. I hope the farmers remain optimistic and the government, a bit considerate and the matter gets resolved soon in favour of the farmers.
Agitating farmers at Singhu border tell LokMarg that ground situation about state procurement is different from what Modi government managers are speaking on the media. Haryana farmers list out their hardships in selling their millet and groundnut crops, their counterpart from Punjab say the current regime is working under the pressure of capitalists who want to establish monopoly in the agriculture sector
They have little faith in the verbal assurance from the government over minimum support price or Mandi system. “The very fact that the Centre is ready to amend the laws shows they have inherent flaws,” the farmers on the site say.
Agitating farmers at Singhu border say their massive protests have brought the NDA government down on its knees and first they will bring down Haryana government in a few weeks, and later the Union government if their demands are not met.
Haryana farmers are also angry that their electoral support had been taken for granted by dynast Dushyant Chautala and Khattar government. They feel betrayed by political class as well as the media for portraying the kisan movement as Khalistani movement.
The farmers say the government has sold itself to Ambani-Adanis. They are confident that the government will have to take back the laws as the protesters are ready for a long haul.
Punjab and Haryana have intensified their protests against Central Agri Laws
and are camping at various protests sites on Delhi border. However, scores of
small farmers in neighbouring Uttar Pradesh have little knowledge of either the
new Central laws or the ongoing protests, even though they say that farming is
a non-profitable occupation and payments from the crop-buyers are erratic and
farmers complain of dwindling incomes but have no solution in sight for their
hardships. Clearly, farmer leaders have failed to communicate their agenda to a
broader spectrum of farming community.
from Punjab, camping at Delhi-Haryana border, continue with their protests
against three Central agriculture laws, the farming community in Haryana has
also thrown its weight behind them. To understand the position of farmers in
Haryana and Punjab, LokMarg speaks to Veerendra Singh Badkhalsa, general secretary
of Bharatiya Kisan Union, Haryana.
Badkhalsa says there is a trust deficit between farmers and the Centre. The farming community has little faith in the motive behind these new Central laws. Critical of politics behind the laws, he points out that laws brought in by Punjab Assembly have no new provision to safeguard farmers’ interest.
Bharatiya Kisan Union leader Nirdesh Choudhary, 40, has been protesting at Delhi-UP border for several days in the cold. Choudhary says farmers are willing to endure the hardship for their children’s future
A farmer’s nerves are made of steel and
the resolve firm as a stone. We don’t protest on small matters, but when we do
the government better sit up and take notice. We can bear hunger, thirst, rain,
winter nights and what have you… only to ensure that the future of our children
After all, we go through all these while
working in the fields. Hum raton me kai
baar khet pe hi sote hain, bahut zyada thand me bhi, sadkon ki thand hamara kya
bigadegi (We often sleep in the fields to take care of our crops, at times
in the dead of winters. So, we can tolerate the cold here). I have been using
my voice to protest the three agriculture bills since November 28. I went back
home briefly to check on my family and house, and am back with renewed strength
We are not scared of the police or their
batons or water cannons. I was roughed up by cops, but I take it as my contribution
to a larger cause. We have put everything at stake to let the government know
that this is not the way to treat farmers. The government thinks corporates
will bring about another revolution for the farmers, but it won’t.
We want the government to give us in writing that the MSP will be maintained or the protests can go on indefinitely. Ye kale kanoon hum nahi manne wale. The thing is we farmers have nothing to lose anymore. The farmer was anyway at the lowest rung in the profit chain and the pandemic this year has meant even lesser earnings. Maybe we fight the best when we have nothing to lose. We as farmers are not going to get bogged down this time.
It does get difficult sometimes, like I
had to take a bus to reach the spot and then had to walk a decent distance to
reach the venue because of the barricades. Sometimes you wonder about your kids
back home but then you remember the larger cause and forget the personal
issues. We have got our own dry rations to cook and eat here, and all this gets
tiring sometimes, but then we take strength from the collective spirit.
Covid looms large but we are maintaining
full social distance and taking all necessary precautions; we distribute masks
every day and ask people to carry sanitizers. We try to maintain utmost hygiene
while cooking, eating etc. However, the government needs to understand that if
we survive the pandemic we need something to survive further.
The farmer has no safety net at all, no pension, nothing to fall back on except crops, and if even that is taken up by corporates, where do we go? There are few women out here, numbering between 100- 150 and if need be more women will join the protests. Female farmers are one of the most resilient, hardworking and smart people you will come across. We are not scared of risk taking and have the capacity to make quick decisions.
Farmers have decided we will not go to
Burari site, we will go straight to Jantar Mantar. I wonder why Modiji said
that other parties are misleading us into protesting. As if we don’t have a
mind of our own. If we are smart enough to raise crops year after year that
feeds the whole country, aren’t we smart enough to make our own decisions? Kisan apne ghar se nikal aaya hai aur is
baar baatcheet poori honesty se honi
moments captured on camera often express a historical event which shakes the
conscience of the civil society for all times to come. Captured in a fleeting
flash, they remain etched in public memory: the Afghan girl, Sharbat Gula, then
nameless, shot by Steve McCurry in June 1985 in a Pakistani refugee camp,
celebrated on the cover of National
Geographic; one thin man standing in defiance against a row of tanks at
Tiananmen Square in Beijing, June 1989; earlier than that, naked children
running from a napalm bomb during the Vietnam war; and Che Guevara’s dead body somewhere
in a jungle in Bolivia, shot dead by CIA mercenaries.
contemporary India, as thousands of farmers wait steadfastly at the
Delhi-Haryana-UP borders, deciding their next move, some images have already
captured the imagination: A dignified old Sikh farmer, totally non-violent,
with flowing white beard, in a white kurta -pyjama and jacket, being threatened
by a young, wiry cop, belligerent, aggressive and remorseless, his fingers
clenched around a rod, his body tensed up with machismo and power.
There are other iconic images too of the struggle: a young protester jumping from a trolley to a police water cannon vehicle, switching off the tap showering dirty water on a cold day on farmers, and jumping back. (He and his father have reportedly been charged now for murder)
endearing moments have arrived yet again: women and men cooking in community
kitchens on the highway; women driving a convoy of tractors in protest; and farmers
giving food and water to grateful cops.
last image would have been appreciated by the likes of Nelson Mandela, Martin
Luther King and Mahatma Gandhi. This is because the cops, many of them children
of hardworking farmers from humble rural backgrounds, had earlier gone all out
against the peaceful protesters. They had drenched them with water, in this
cold, teargassed them, threatened them with lathis,
dug medieval war-like trenches, brought in iron barricades, sand and mud
trucks, huge cement slabs, sand bag walls, ship containers, barbed wires, and
an endless row of cops in full gear, ready to charge.
farmers have been protesting in Punjab and Haryana since September. November 26
was a national protest day organized jointly by farmer organisations and trade
unions against the labour laws being unilaterally enacted by the Centre despite
the economic collapse and mass unemployment of millions in the organized and
informal sector. These might include draconian provisions like hire and fire,
12 hours work, mass sackings, major changes in pro-worker acts like the Inter-state Migrant Workers
Act, Contract Workers Act, the Factories Act, the Industrial Disputes Act, etc,
and changes in wages, safety and compensation, while contractors will be calling
the shots with no regulations. These trade unions are also opposing unbridled
privatisation of the public sector, including banks, railways and airports,
whereby certain favoured industrialists of the ruling regime in Delhi are being
Significantly, there are more than 250 farmers’ organization in the All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee, and they actually joined hands with the workers on November 26 all over the country, including in West Bengal and South India. The farmers march to Delhi from Punjab and Haryana, and also other Hindi heartland states like Uttarakhand, UP and Rajasthan, however, became the epicenter of this mass uprising, and it is not going to die down so soon.
question is, why the government is so adamant after pushing the three farm bills
in Parliament without consensus? Why is it refusing to make the MSP a law? And
why is it so rigidly refusing to budge, to negotiate with flexibility, using
strong-arm tactics? What is that unsurmountable, one-dimensional pressure on
the Narendra Modi regime that it is ready to alienate farmers, while choosing
to block, barricade and brutalise them?
BJP government is toeing the line of corporate cronies,” said Vijoo Krishnan, speaking
to Lokmarg. He is a top leader of the Left-led All India Kisan Sabha, which led
the massive long march of farmers to Mumbai. “The intention of this government
is total corporatization of Indian agriculture. But the resistance is
unprecedented. Except for the BJP and RSS unions, all other workers and farmers’
unions have joined this resistance. Even state governments like Punjab and
Rajasthan are exercising their federal rights in support of the farmers. Kerala
has declared MSP for 16 agricultural products, and has protected the farmers
during and after the lockdown. Besides, it is providing food to 90 lakh people,
including ‘guest workers’ (migrant workers).”
leader J Hooda from Shamli, Western UP, speaking to Lokmarg at the UP-Delhi
barricades, said: “The farmers have always known their sinister motives – to
sell our land and agriculture to corporates. Modi is doing precisely that to
favour his favourite industrialists. Now the farmers are not going to relent.
Drop the farm bills. Make a new law on MSP.”
says the farmer makes huge losses in the open market, because it is based on market
whims, unscrupulous private players and demand and supply ratio. Often, distress
sale becomes a norm. Without government support in states, or a central MSP, farmers
will be doomed. “They want to abolish local mandis. So where will we go to sell
our produce – can we compete in the international market with massive,
mechanized farming and huge multinational farmer lobbies? Why are they pushing
us into the hands of unethical corporates who are now trying to capture Indian
agriculture through the backdoor backed by the BJP regime?”
while Punjab and Haryana (with UP and MP) are the biggest producers of rice and
wheat, there are 23 crops, including cereals, pulses, commercial crops, on the
list. India is 80 per cent agriculture – the food chain begins at the land of
the tiller and ends long distances in metros and small towns. In this complex
and long chain, thousands of people are involved: farmers, entire families,
landless farmers and sharecroppers, small and middle farmers, local services
and ancillary networks, small markets, shopkeepers, loaders, truckers, workers,
mandis, mills and factories, small scale and big industries, and others. It’s
corporate and government propaganda that only 6 per cent of rich farmers are
benefitting from MSP. What about the millions integrated to the entire process
till the food reaches your table? ask farmers.
Argues Vijoo Krishnan: “MSP ensures at least that much for
farmers if public procurement is there. In states where there is no effective
public procurement, farmers get paid even below the MSP. For instance, while the
MSP of paddy is around Rs 1860 per quintal in Bihar, Odisha etc, farmers are
forced to sell at Rs 1000-1200 per quintal.”
Farmers are also arguing that even the MSP, based on state
averages, is arbitrary. Kerala pays many times more per quintal for paddy, and
the crop produce costs vary from state to state. But the government refuses to
usher in serious policy changes for large scale benefits to the vast rural
sector, even while pampering and subsidising big industrialists and waiving off
their debts etc, while facilitating lucrative contracts for them, like the
privatisation of airports and railways, or the Rafael deal.
are angry that the government is shy on implementing the comprehensive Swaminathan
Commission recommendations, including the guarantee of 50 per cent more than
the stated MSP, among other reforms, like compensating for land, labour, seed,
pesticides, fertilisers, diesel, electricity, water, tractors, machines, and
other things needed for agriculture. They are asking why the government has not
returned the GST to them on all the additional things they have used for
economy is in crisis because crony capitalism by profit sharks have ravaged it with
no signs of recovery during the pandemic. Now they are greedily eyeing the
post-independence public sector and agriculture. If the farmers are driven to
the edge, for the benefit of favoured industrialists and powerful MNCs, then
there is no option left for them but to fight back. That is why, as of now, it
is a do or die struggle for the thousands of defiant and non-violent farmers,
now steadfast at the borders of the capital of India.
LokMarg speaks to Gurvinder
Singh Koom Kalan, state secretary of Bharatiya Kisan Union (Lakhowal) to
know about the impact of Punjab Assembly legislations to nullify Central Agriculture
laws. Singh says while it was an unprecedented move when these state bills were
passed by near-unanimous voting in the legislative assembly, there are several
shortcomings in them.
Foremost, the farmers were demanding MSPs to be
ensured for all crops, be it mustard, lentils or cotton, and the state
government has only included wheat and paddy crops in their laws. For these and
other reasons, Singh says farmers will continue their protest against “black
laws” to adversely affect farmers.
On Friday, as the sun set in large parts of India, the day-long farmers’ protests and Bharat Bandh passed off peacefully with no police violence, lathi-charge or teargas reported, no mass arrests or detentions, and no forcible eviction of farmers, many of whom had blocked highways and roads, and railway tracks and trains, albeit peacefully, and in a collective, resolute show of non-violence. Even while the so-called Godi media chose to ignore it, social media was replete with images and commentaries of the mass protests all over the country; significantly in the South, in cities like Hyderabad and Bangalore, where thousands thronged the streets in militant non-violent protests against three agriculture-related bills.
The Centre in the recently-concluded Monsoon Session of Parliament passed three bills rather arbitrarily: the Farmers Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020; the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, 2020 and; he Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill, 2020.
Farmers believe these bills will have long-lasting and negative effects on farming as they will give a free run to big industrialists, global sharks, cartels and multinationals. Powerful hoarders will have a field day, the minimum support price of farm produce will be manipulated pushing the farmers to abject starvation, debt and total dependence, and all kinds of dubious and sleazy market forces will be allowed to capture Indian agriculture.
belligerent BJP-led central government, who chose to care little for dialogue
or consensus in pushing the three bills, and which was so sure of its absolute
and one-dimensional power, now not only finds itself on a sticky wicket – it is
clearly on the back foot.
Indeed, the street has once again become a metaphor for non-violent protests, for the first time since the lockdown, which was preceded by massive peaceful protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act and Citizen Registry (NRC) that rocked the nation with demonstrations and prolonged sit-ins across small towns and big cities for more than three months during winter last year and thereafter. Surely, after the massive Shaheen Bagh protests, which were replicated across the nation, and with the farmers coming on the streets physically, breaking all forms of collective phobia or the fear of a Police State, the use of the pandemic to crush democratic dissent can no more be used. The tide is rising again, this time with farmers in the lead.
the first day of protests, the farmers’ life began earlier than most people in
India, much before sunrise. There was fear that there could be a crackdown,
especially in the states ruled by the BJP. Even now, there have been
apprehensions that the central government, which has been rather
uncompromising, might actually choose to crack down using the pandemic as an
excuse, as it has done with peaceful dissenters against the CAA, which the
protesters have condemned as discriminatory, communal and against the basic
tenets of the secular Indian Constitution.
morning most of Punjab was up in arms. Indeed, what found sharp resonance in
Parliament earlier, especially in the Rajya Sabha, where the three bills were
pushed by a voice vote in the din (with Rajya Sabha TV volume muted) and a
division of vote was not allowed, and which the Opposition called as the murder
of democracy, became resonant yet again on the streets all over India. Trains and
highways were blocked but without any untoward incident.
the Haryana-Punjab border, tractors blocked the roads even as ambulances and
locals were allowed to move, and youngsters in thousands assembled in
solidarity with the farmers. Punjab being the epicenter, the strong protests
were spread across the state, with the farmers refusing to budge till the three
bills are taken back, lock, stock and barrel, and the minimum support prices
for farm produce legalized.
the massive Nabha protests, again on railway tracks, men and women marched from
long distances, to join in solidarity. A woman told BBC News (Hindi), “Narendra
Modi tells his Mann ki Baat. So what about our Mann ki Baat? Another woman
said, “The movement will be sharpened if the bills are not withdrawn. They are
upsurge spread across the country, with thousands of rallies and dharnas. Farmers, workers, locals, trade
unions, civil society organisations and students came out in hundreds of
rallies in small towns and cities, in every state, holding red, green and other
flags, marching in a disciplined and peaceful manner. ‘Standwithfarmers’ kept
trending on social media. In Kolkata, the students of Jadavpur University
marched through the streets singing songs in support of the farmers. There was
overwhelming support for the agitation all over Bengal with the Left, the
Congress and the ruling Trinamool Congress coming out in support.
CPI-ML (Liberation), which is strong among the poor peasantry in Bihar, led
protests across the state, led by its general secretary Dipankar Bhattacharya.
The CPI (M) organized rallies in several parts of the country even as its
national protests have been continuing since the last few weeks demanding the
scrapping of the bills, Rs 7,500 in every bank account of jobless workers, food
for the poor from the public distribution system, an end to the selling of
public sector assets like the railways and airports, and the release of
students, intellectuals, activists and peaceful protestors from prisons.
the CPI (M) organized massive and militant protests in Tripura, especially in
Agartala, whereby thousands of people came out and broke the physical
barricades enacted by the police at several points. People trickled in streams
across locations, very angry and vociferous, though the clashes with the cops were
never violent with the police giving way to the surging crowds.
highways were blocked, including the important Bombay-Ahmedabad highway, where hundreds
of women of the All India Democratic Women’s Association (AIDWA), blocked
traffic. Ashok Dhawale, president of the CPI(M)-led All India Kisan Sabha, came
to the site to give a solidarity speech. Dhawale, indeed, was the leader of the
massive march of lakhs of farmers to Mumbai earlier from the remotest interiors
of Maharashtra, including Adivasi areas, when the BJP government was ruling in
long march of kisans with a sea of red banners struck a chord across the nation
with round-the-clock coverage, including on social and international media,
with the people of Mumbai coming out in total support. Indeed, the farmers
deliberately chose the route and timing in such a manner so as to not to
disturb the school students in their exams, or the locals in their daily
affairs. Doctors, students, housewives had rushed in then with food, medicine
and even chappals. Mumbaikars
showered flowers on the annadaatas from
their balconies and doors when they marched through the lanes. AIKS said 50,000 farmers protested
across Maharashtra on Friday.
two dozen farmers’ organizations backed by scores of political parties have joined
the protests. The Bharat Bandh was coordinated by the All
India Farmers Union (AIFU), Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU), All India Kisan
Mahasangh (AIKM), among others, with the All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination
Committee (AIKSCC) leading the protests. Ten central trade unions, all Left
students’ organizations, joined the strike. Farmers’ bodies from Karnataka,
Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra called for a shutdown. The RSS-affiliated
organizations like the Bhartiya Kisan Sangh and Swadeshi Jagran Manch did not take
these mass protests are now likely to resurrect a new wave of peaceful
resistance in civil society and by the Opposition parties, especially against
the daily hounding and arrests of students, professors, intellectuals,
journalists and dissenters, particularly from the Muslim community, on
fabricated and flimsy charges.
There is widespread anguish among the country’s farmers with regards to the new Agriculture Bills passed by Parliament in the recently concluded Monsoon Session. Various political and apolitical farmer organisations have come out on streets in opposition to the proposed laws that seek to bring in private buyers for farm produce.
As there were few debates in Parliament on the issue, the jury is still out whether these reforms will help increase farmers’ incomes or add to their misery. LokMarg meets the protesting farmers in Uttar Pradesh to know their view and found their demands:
1) The Centre must ensure that minimum support price
bar is maintained for the buyers while purchasing farm produce, be it in mandis or to a corporate house.
2) Allay farmers’ apprehensions that their land will
not be grabbed in the name of contract farming.
3) The support price must be revised frequently in
accordance with the rise in inflation rate.
Watch the video:
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