Farmers set to begin ‘Delhi Chalo’ march, tractor-trolleys start rolling as talks fail; high security in national capital

Farmer leaders were adamant on a legal guarantee to minimum support price for crops, which is one of their key demands.


Published Feb 13, 2024 | 7:49 AMUpdated Feb 13, 2024 | 7:49 AM

Farmers set to begin ‘Delhi Chalo’ march, tractor-trolleys start rolling as talks fail; high security in national capital

Farmers are set to begin their ‘Delhi Chalo’ march on Tuesday, 13 February, morning, a farmer leader asserted after their five-hour-long meeting with two Union ministers over their demands remained inconclusive.

Earlier on Monday, tractor-trolleys set out from different parts of Punjab to join the protest, mainly to press for a law to guarantee a minimum support price for crops, while all eyes were on the second round of meeting between the government and the farmer union in Chandigarh.

“We do not think the government is serious about any of our demands. We do not think they want to fulfil our demands… Tomorrow, we will march towards Delhi at 10 am,” farmer leader Sarwan Singh Pandher told reporters after the meeting ended just before midnight.

Union Agriculture Minister Arjun Munda, who along with Food and Consumer Affairs Minister Piyush Goyal attended the meeting, said a consensus was reached on most issues and the government proposed that the remaining be addressed through the formation of a committee.

“The government always wants that we can resolve every issue through dialogue… We are still hopeful and we welcome talks,” he said.

Also Read: Madhya Pradesh police detain, ‘injure’ Karnataka farmers citing ‘CBI probe’

Security beefed up in Delhi

In Delhi, massive deployment of police and paramilitary personnel besides multi-layered barricading have been made to seal the national capital borders at Singhu, Tikri and Ghazipur to prevent the protesting farmers from entering the city on Tuesday.

The Samyukta Kisan Morcha (Non-political) and the Kisan Mazdoor Morcha have announced that more than 200 farmer unions will head to Delhi to press the Centre to accept their demands.

SKM (Non-Political) leader Jagjit Singh Dallewal and Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Committee general secretary Sarwan Singh Pandher, among others, were part of the meeting, which began at the Mahatma Gandhi State Institute of Public Administration in Sector 26 in Chandigarh at around 6.30 pm.

The first meeting with the Union ministers was held on February 8 in which detailed discussions with the leaders of farmer organisations took place.

In the meeting on Monday, the Centre is learnt to have agreed to withdraw the cases against the farmers registered during the 2020-21 agitation against the now-repealed farm laws, sources said.

However, the sources said, farmer leaders were adamant on a legal guarantee to minimum support price for crops, which is one of their key demands.

Pandher said, “We held a long discussion with them and we discussed every issue… Our effort was to avoid any confrontation. We wanted the issue to be resolved through dialogue with them. Had the government offered anything to us, then we could have reconsidered holding our agitation.”

He claimed that the government’s intention was not clean. “It did not want to give anything to us… We told them to take a decision. They did not take any decision on the farmers’ demand of giving legal guarantee to the minimum support price,” he said, adding, “Tomorrow, we will march towards Delhi at 10 am.”

Also Read: Karnataka farmers want repeal of APMC Act, dropped by Centre after agitation

Tractor-trolleys leave for Delhi

Earlier in the day, tractor-trolleys in large numbers set out from different parts of Punjab to join the march.

Pandher said a convoy of tractor-trolleys set out in the morning from Beas in Amritsar to assemble in Fatehgarh Sahib district. Many farmers from Moga, Bathinda and Jalandhar districts have also started from their villages to join the march.

Earlier, the farmer leaders, who were participating in the talks in Chandigarh, held a meeting in Amb Sahib in Punjab’s Mohali before leaving for the city.

Authorities in Haryana have fortified the state’s borders with Punjab at many places in Ambala, Jind, Fatehabad, Kurukshetra and Sirsa using concrete blocks, iron nails and barbed wire to scuttle the proposed march.

The Haryana government has also imposed restrictions under Section 144 of the CrPC in as many as 15 districts, prohibiting the assembly of five or more people and banning any kind of demonstration or march with tractor-trolleys.

Besides a legal guarantee for MSP, farmers are also demanding implementation of the Swaminathan Commission’s recommendations, pensions for farmers and farm labourers, farm debt waiver, withdrawal of police cases and “justice” for victims of the Lakhimpur Kheri violence, reinstatement of the Land Acquisition Act, 2013, withdrawal from the World Trade Organization, and compensation for families of farmers who died during the previous 2020-21 agitation, among others.

Also Read: Andhra’s oil palm farmers are battling a triple threat

Traffic restrictions in Delhi

In the national capital, traffic restrictions have been put in place and security arrangements intensified at the Singhu, Ghazipur and Tikri borders ahead of the march to prevent vehicles carrying protesters from entering the city.

The police are also using drones to keep a tight vigil at border points, an official said, adding that they are fully prepared to deal with any law and order situation.

Multiple layers of barricades with concertina wires, nails and huge concrete blocks and containers have been placed along the entry points to the national capital.

With traffic restrictions and security measures in place, the motorists had a hard time commuting between Delhi and NCR towns.

The Haryana Police and the Chandigarh Police have already issued traffic advisories, asking commuters to take alternative routes.

Ahead of the meeting with Union ministers, farmers’ leader Dallewal alleged that many agriculturists, who were coming from other states, including Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh, to support the ‘Delhi Chalo’ march, have been detained, and sought their release.

Dallewal claimed that several farmers coming from Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka, owing allegiance to the SKM, have been detained in Bhopal.

“On one side, they (the Centre) are holding dialogues with us and on the other, they are detaining our people. Then how will this dialogue take place?” the SKM (Non-Political) leader said.

On the heavy security arrangements at various points of the Haryana-Punjab border, Dallewal said the government’s “nervousness” is visible.

“These are not our demands, these are the government’s commitments,” he said.

Meanwhile, a petition was filed in the Punjab and Haryana High Court against the sealing of borders and suspension of mobile internet services by the Haryana government in the wake of farmer outfits calling for a protest march to Delhi on February 13.

The petitioner, Uday Partap Singh, sought directions from the court to stay all “obstructive” actions by the governments of Haryana and Punjab and the Centre against the farmers’ protest, alleging that they infringe on the fundamental rights and are “unconstitutional”.

The matter is expected to come up for a hearing on Tuesday.

Also Read: Govt threatened to shut down Twitter over pro-farmer protest handles, says ex-CEO Jack Dorsey

Karnataka farmers held in Madhya Pradesh

Around 100 Karnataka farmers, en route to Delhi to participate in the “Delhi Chalo” protest organised by various farmer unions, were detained by the Madhya Pradesh Police in the early hours of Monday, 12 February.

When contacted, Bhopal police told South First, that the farmers were detained over a “CBI case” refusing to divulge more details.

What’s worse, the farmers have alleged that not only was one of them — a woman farmer — injured at the hands of the police but that she also did not receive proper treatment.

South First spoke to farmers who had been isolated in a convention hall in Bhopal and said that they did not have access to proper food or water.

Incidentally, the Indian farmers protest comes even as farmers in several countries have hit the streets, raising various demands.

(Disclaimer: The headline, subheads, intro and background of this report along with the photos may have been reworked by South First. The rest of the content is from a syndicated feed, and has been edited for style.)