Farmers' Protest: Cultivator leaders threaten to block Delhi-Noida border; Opposition misleading them, says PM
Farmers' leaders on Tuesday called upon people to pay tributes on 20 December to those farmers who have lost their lives during the ongoing protests. One farmer leader Rishipal said that one farmer has died every day on an average since the protest started in the last week of November.
Addressing a press conference at Singhu Border on Tuesday, farmer leaders said the fight over the new farm laws has reached a stage where they are “determined to win it no matter what”.
The farmers also threatened to completely block Delhi-Noida today (16 December).
This came hours after Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the agriculture reforms are exactly what the farmers’ bodies and the Opposition parties wanted. The prime minister once again reiterated his support for the three contentious farm laws and accused Opposition parties of misleading the protesting farmers.
Modi’s comments came as the protesting farmers camped out near Delhi for the 20th straight day on Tuesday. They remain adamant on the demand that the Centre repeal the three laws. The government has time and again made it clear that would not scrap the farm laws, but is willing to make amendments.
Agriculture minister Narendra Singh Tomar also stated that the farm sector Acts have been welcomed in various states across the country but the Centre is willing to continue its talks with "genuine farm unions" to find a solution with an open mind.
He also said that the Minimum Support Price (MSP), at which the government commits to procure the produce from farmers, is an administrative decision and it "will continue as it is".
Meanwhile, four Punjab farmers returning from protest sites near Delhi borders were killed in two separate road accidents. As the protest looks set to intensify further as more farmers are expected to join the ongoing agitation at Delhi's border points to press for their demands, PTI reported.
Over 2,000 women from the families of those protesting at the Singhu border here are likely to join the demonstration in the coming days.
Tens of thousands of farmers, mostly from Punjab and Haryana, have been protesting at key entry points to Delhi. The farmers fear the agricultural reforms will weaken the minimum support price mechanism under which the government buys agricultural produce, will lead to the deregulation of crop-pricing, deny them fair remuneration for their produce and leave them at the mercy of corporations.
'Will make govt repeal laws'
Hardening their stance on the three new agri laws, farmer leaders Tuesday said they will "make" the government repeal these legislations, and asserted their fight has reached a stage where they are "determined" to win it no matter what.
They said they will completely block the Chilla Border between Delhi and Noida on Wednesday to press for their demands.
Addressing a press conference at Singhu Border, farmer leader Jagjeet Dallewal said, "The government is saying ''we won't repeal these laws'', we are saying we will make you do it."
"The fight has reached a stage where we are determined to win no matter what," he said.
He also said, "We are not running away from a negotiation, but the government has to pay heed to our demands and come forward with concrete proposals."
Several other farmer-leaders also addressed the press conference and called upon people to pay tributes on 20 December to those farmers who have lost their lives during the ongoing protests.
Farmer leader Rishipal said that one farmer has died every day on an average since the protest started in the last week of November.
"A Homage Day (Shraddhanjali Diwas) for all the farmers who lost their lives and became martyrs in the ongoing protest will be organised across the country in villages and tehsil headquarters on 20th December from 11 am to 1 pm," said another farmer leader.
According to The Times of India, around 20 farmers become 'shaheed' during protest so far.
'Opposition misguiding farmers, ready to resolve doubts'
Speaking at the foundation laying ceremony at development projects in his home state Gujarat, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said, "Farmers gathered near Delhi are being misled as part of a conspiracy. Farmers are told that their land will be grabbed by others if new farm reforms get implemented. I want to ask you, did the dairy owner take your cattle because you are selling milk to him."
"Opposition parties, when they were in power, were in favour of these farm sector reforms but did not take any decision back then. Now, when the country has decided to embrace these reforms, these people are spreading falsehood and misleading farmers. I want to reiterate that my government is ready 24 hours [sic] to resolve all your doubts," Modi said.
The prime minister made the remarks at Dhordo in Kutch after laying the foundation stones for development projects, including the world's largest hybrid renewable energy park, a desalination plant, and a milk processing plant.
Modi also met delegations of farmers from Punjab settled in Kutch district as well as local cultivators and heard their issues with Chief Minister Vijay Rupani.
Sikh farmers cultivate land in areas near the India-Pakistan border. Modi also interacted with a group of local women from a self-help group at the venue.
Four farmers killed in two separate accidents
Four Punjab farmers returning from protest sites near Delhi borders were killed in two separate road accidents on Tuesday. In the first incident, two farmers belonging to Patiala were killed in an early morning accident after their tractor-trolley was hit by a truck in Haryana's Karnal district, police said.
In the accident, which took place on Taraori flyover in Karnal, a third farmer was seriously wounded while some others sitting on the trolley escaped with minor injuries. Taraori police station's SHO Inspector Sachin said the two deceased were aged around 24 years and 50 years respectively.
He said one of the farmers travelling in the tractor trolley told police that the truck driver appeared to have fallen asleep behind the wheels which led to the accident.
The truck driver managed to flee from the spot, he said, adding a case under relevant provisions of law that has been registered in connection with the incident. "The farmers were returning from Delhi. They belonged to Saphera under Sadar Police station in Patiala," he said.
In another road mishap, two more Punjab farmers died while seven others injured when their vehicle collided with a truck near Bhagomajra in Mohali on Tuesday, officials said.
The deceased, Deep Singh, was a resident of Mohali district while Sukhdev Singh Dadiana was a native of Fatehgarh Sahib district.
Of the injured farmers, four, who were wounded seriously, have been referred to the Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research and a government hospital in Chandigarh said officials.
Three others were admitted to a hospital in Mohali, they said. Punjab health minister Balbir Singh Sidhu met the injured farmers.
'Protests resulting in daily loss of Rs 3,500 crores'
Industry body Assocham on Tuesday urged the Centre and farmers' organisations to resolve the impasse over the new agri laws, saying that the protests are inflicting a heavy blow to the economies of Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir.
"A daily loss of Rs 3,000-3,500 crore is resulting in the economies of the region from the value chain and transport disruption because of the protests," according to a rough estimate by the chamber.
Assocham president Niranjan Hiranandani said, ''The size of the combined economies of Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir is about Rs 18 lakh crore. With the ongoing farmers'' agitation and blockade of roads, toll plazas and railways, the economic activities have come to a halt."
On Monday, the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) had said the farmer agitation has led to supply chain disruptions, which will impact the economy in the coming days and may impinge upon the ongoing recovery from the economic contraction due to COVID-19.
'BJP pushing patriotic Punjab into communal flames'
Launching a scathing attack on the BJP over farmers' protest against the three central farm laws, SAD chief Sukhbir Singh Badal on Tuesday dubbed the saffron party as real 'tukde tukde gang' and accused it of setting Hindus against Sikhs in Punjab.
Asserting that the BJP first set Hindus against Muslims , Badal said the party has become the most powerful divisive force , out to replay its evil game in Punjab .
BJP is the real #TukdeTukdeGang in the country. It has smashed national unity to pieces,shamelessly inciting Hindus against Muslims & now desperate setting peace loving Punjabi Hindus against their Sikh brethren esp #farmers. They're pushing patriotic Punjab into communal flames. pic.twitter.com/7adwVmoDgj
— Sukhbir Singh Badal (@officeofssbadal) December 15, 2020
Asking his former ally to shun the arrogant attitude over the farm laws and accept what farmers want, Badal warned the BJP against any attempt to set Hindus against Sikhs.
He said if one speaks in favour of the Central Government, he is called 'desh bhakt' and if he speaks out against it, he is branded as 'tukde tukde gang'.
With inputs from PTI