The Haryana Police on Tuesday lobbed several rounds of tear gas shells, including through drones, at Punjab-Haryana borders near Ambala and Jind, to prevent farmers from reaching Delhi as thousands of farmers started from different parts of Punjab in their tractors as part of a call by farmers’ body Samyukt Kisan Morcah (non-politicial), which has raised several demands including legal guarantee of the minimum support price (MSP).
A drone was also used to drop the tear gas shells and keep an eye on the protesters, PTI reports. Farmers were seen carrying wet jute bags to shield themselves from the effect of the smoke released from tear gas shells, the report said.
After talks ended with the two Central ministers last night, the SKM (Non-Political) and the Kisan Mazdoor Morcha representatives had said that the Centre has refused to accept their demands, Union Agriculture Minister Arjun Munda, who participated in the dialogue, said that a consensus was reached on most issues and a formula was proposed for resolving some others through the formation of a committee.
Sources in SKM (Non-Political) said that during the talks the government only agreed to withdraw cases against farmers filed during 2020-2021 agitation and for the remaining demands, it wanted to set up another committee. “What is the meaning of agreeing to the only demand which was a promise made in 2021 and yet to be fulfilled. The government is not sincere as it was informed well in advance about the proposed march to Delhi and offer of talk came very late, still farmer leaders agreed,” said a leader of SKM (Non-Political).
He also questioned the panel set up by the government and wanted to know the outcome, so far and alleged that it was waste of money as the Doubling Farmers Income committee has elaborate recommendations. The panel should have focussed “only and only on legal MSP”, he said.
The Sanjay Aggarwal-headed panel on MSP was established in July 2022, eight months after the government repealed the three contentious farm laws and recently the government informed that the committee has held 37 meetings and workshops across the country. However, it has failed to submit even an interim report, a farmer leader pointed out.
Referring to the deadlock with the Centre over their demands, farmer leader Sarwan Singh Pandher, said, that they did not want a new committee concerning their demands as agreeing to any such committee would mean to put the issue on the backburner.
Meanwhile, speaking during Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra in Ambikapur district of Chhattisgarh, Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge said that the party will implement the “Kisaan Nyay Guarantee” if it comes to power. He promised legal MSP and also implementation of the Swaminathan formula on MSP.
Chaos on roads
As the curbs imposed by traffic police in Delhi has led to chaos on several roads, even Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud, said, he would accommodate lawyers if they are stuck in traffic. If anyone has a problem due to the traffic situation, “we will adjust,” a Bench comprising the CJI and Justices JB Pardiwala and Manoj Misra told lawyers.
Even as all major farmer bodies of Uttar Pradesh have expressed their dissociation from the “march to Delhi” call, the security curbs with barricades on the Noida-Delhi border and on Ghaziabad-Delhi border have surprised commuters who could not find any farmers on the road. Last week, too, during the farmers protest in Noida, curbs by traffic police led to complete closure of Noida-Greater Noida expressway and a resultant chaos, even as less than ten farmers with tractors were spotted under Mahamaya flyover around 4-5 pm.
Delhi Police has sealed three borders of Delhi – Singhu, Tikri and Ghazipur – and put up multiple layers of barricades at various roads leading to the Parliament and the central part of Delhi. Besides, some entry and exit gates of select metro stations in central Delhi have been shut as precautionary measure. The government has also closed the historic Red Fort complex for visitors due to security reasons as during the farmers’ protest in 2021, there were clashes with police at Red Fort.
The Rajasthan government has tightened security checks along its borders with Haryana and Punjab and has also suspended mobile internet in three districts, mainly to prevent WhatsApp forwards, officials in Jaipur said.
Acting on two separate petitions filed before it on the issue of farmers’ march to Delhi, the Punjab and Haryana High court has issued notices to the Centre, and both Haryana and Punjab governments. While one petitioner has sought directions from the court to order removal of all obstructions on the highways, another has pleaded for punishment for protesters for blocking highways.
In a sudden turn of event, the SKM (Non-Political) received support from the other faction of SKM, which wrote a letter to the Prime Minister condemning the Haryana government’s action on the protesting farmers. It has also appealed for support from SKM (Non-Political) for the February 16 Gramin Bharat Bandh, mainly called by Left-leaning trade unions.