3 lakh farmers to launch protests in 21 cities

Updated: 22 September, 2020 08:24 IST | Gaurav Sarkar, Dharmendra Jore | Mumbai

Coalition of 208 groups says government is washing away all its responsibilities in the name of liberating the agriculture sector

Farmers burn an effigy of PM Narendra Modi and Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar in Amritsar. Pic/AFP
Farmers burn an effigy of PM Narendra Modi and Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar in Amritsar. Pic/AFP

The Akhil Bharatiya Kisan Sangharsh Samanvaya Samiti—a coalition of 208 farmers' groups across the country—has called for a nationwide protest on September 25, against the farm reform bills that were passed by the Rajya Sabha on Sunday. They are currently due for assent from the President for them to become a law. The Kisan Sabha, one of the biggest groups under this umbrella coalition, that boasts of over 3,00,000 members in Maharashtra and close to 3 crore nationwide, will hold protests across 21 districts in Maharashtra as part of the call.

However, the city of Mumbai will not be one of them. Ajit Navale, state secretary of the Kisan Sabha, said, "The protests will be in front of gram panchayats and in groups of an average of 500 people so as to be safe amid the pandemic. We want to keep the protest sites limited to places where farmers live so as to not create any social problem amid the pandemic." The closest protest site to the city of Mumbai will be in Thane. Other districts where the Sept 25 nationwide agitation is expected to take place are Palghar, Ahmednagar, Nashik, Nanded, etc.

Already people are protesting against the bills, such these as Aam Aadmi Party activists who agitated near GPO in Lucknow on Monday. Pic/PTI
Already people are protesting against the bills, such these as Aam Aadmi Party activists who agitated near GPO in Lucknow on Monday. Pic/PTI

Navale said, "The government talks about giving the farming community 'azaadi' but they are actually giving themselves azaadi by absolving themselves of our responsibility, by letting corporates and private companies do business with us without having a proper mechanism in place. We have seen how privatisation of milk has led to an almost monopoly-like situation in that market, one that has pushed the kisan to the peripheries of the business. Yeh koi atmanirbhar policy nahi hai—
yeh atmasamarpan ki policy hai."

Also Read: Sukhbir Singh Badal urges President Ram Nath Kovind not to sign farm Bills

Devendra Fadnavis, who headed the all-party Chief Ministers' task force that recommended provisions for the three bills, has said that the non-BJP CMs were in full support of the reforms.

Kisan Sabha members protest against low procurement rates of cooperative and private dairies  at Akola, Ahmednagar, on August 1
Kisan Sabha members protest against low procurement rates of cooperative and private dairies at Akola, Ahmednagar, on August 1

"Congressman Kamal Nath's advice was very significant in recommending the provisions. In fact, he wanted the government to be more liberal in freeing the market for the farmers. Kumaraswamy (who was a Congress ally) also supported the reforms wholeheartedly. It is only for political reasons that the Congress is now opposing the reforms which were promised in its 2019 election manifesto. The BJP has delivered a promise made by the Congress," said Fadnavis in Nagpur at a media conference on Monday.

Fadnavis said the Congress and Nationalist Congress Party government had made a law 13 years ago to create private agriculture markets. "It is only for political reasons that the Congress is now opposing the reforms which were promised in its 2019 election manifesto. The BJP has delivered a promise made by the Congress which is now exposed before the farmers."

Sena should take firm stand

Fadnavis said it was time a 'confused' Shiv Sena took a firm stand on farming issues. "It supported the bills in Lok Sabha and opposed them in Rajya Sabha. They try to be on both sides," he said, asking the Sena whether it would give a guarantee that there would be no farmers' suicides in Maharashtra. "I expect Sanjay Raut (who posted a question in Rajya Sabha) to respond to this."

He reminded the adversaries the previous government's law. "It is because of the law that farmers sold directly to consumers and made good money. The farmers now want all other commodities to be sold at non-APMC places - their farm, residence, godown or cold storage. The farmers are happy, but some parties are misleading them," he said.

The bills

The two bills passed include, The Farmers and Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation Bill), 2020, and The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, 2020. The former bill can be dubbed as an APMC Bypass Ordinance, which allows farmers to sell their agricultural produce at places apart from APMC-regulated mandis, and the latter as a Contract Farming Ordinance which provides for a regulatory framework for farmers entering into a written contract with corporates, wholesalers, agri-business firms, etc. The third bill is The Freedom of Food Stocking by Agribusinesses Ordinance, which allows people to stock food grains and produce without being punished.

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First Published: 22 September, 2020 07:02 IST

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