Rajasthan farmers to begin Delhi Chalo march tomorrow; groups intensify protests, to observe fast on 14 Dec
Under fire from Opposition parties in Haryana and the state's farmers to hold the BJP accountable for its approach to the farmers' protest, Haryana deputy CM Dushyant Chautala expressed hope that the issue will get resolved through talks soon
Farmers protesting near the border entry points of Delhi Saturday announced that they will hold fast on 14 December in order to reiterate their demand to repeal the Centre's farm laws even as thousands more from Rajasthan's Shahjanpur ready to begin Delhi Chalo march on Sunday.
The farmers said that all representatives of the farmer groups will observe a fast from 8 am to 5 pm on 14 December. Farmers have already called for a nationwide strike on Monday.
The protests entered the 17th day on Saturday.
The farmers also expressed that they are ready to hold talks with the government, but the govt will have to first discuss their demand to repeal the three new farm laws.
"If the government wants to hold talks, we are ready, but our main demand will remain the scrapping of the three laws. We will move onto our other demands only after that," said farmer leader Kanwalpreet Singh Pannu.
Addressing a press conference at Delhi's Singhu Border, Pannu also said that farmers from other parts of the country are also on their way to join the protesters at Delhi's border entry points and they will take the agitation to the next level in the coming days.
Pannu alleged that the Centre had tried to weaken the agitation, but that the protesting farmers did not let it happen. The farmer leader vowed to keep the protest peaceful.
The farmers' statement came a few hours after Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the government is committed to protect the interest of the farming community through its policies and intentions.
While addressing the 93rd Annual Convention of FICCI, Modi championed the new farm laws as a tool to bridge gaps between different sectors.
The government has taken various initiatives to improve the income of people engaged in the farm sector, he said, adding that farmers now have options to sell their crops in mandis as well as to outside parties.
Farmer unions, particularly in Punjab and Haryana, say that the new laws will lead to the dismantling of the MSP system under which government agencies buy their crop at an assured price.
In its proposal to farmers on Wednesday, the Centre had said it will give a written assurance that the MSP system will remain and also redress their other key concerns. The unions, however, are demanding complete rollback of the central laws and are now planning to intensify their agitation.
The government on Friday had asked the protesting farmers to ensure that their platform is not misused, saying some antisocial as well as "Leftist and Maoist elements" were conspiring to spoil the atmosphere of the agitation which has been going on for over two weeks now.
Photographs of some protesters at the Tikri border seen holding posters demanding release of activists arrested under various charges had gone viral, prompting Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar to say that these antisocial elements are conspiring to spoil the atmosphere of the peasants' movement under the guise of farmers.
Since the beginning of the protests, BJP leaders have alleged the presencce of anti-nantional elements in the farmers' protest, and have even claimed that the protests are part of a Khalistani agenda.
'Hopeful' about next round of talks, says Dushyant Chautala
Under fire from the Opposition parties in Haryana and the state's farmers to hold the BJP accountable for its approach to the farmers' protest over the farm laws, Haryana deputy chief minister and Jannayak Janta Party (JJP) leader Dushyant Chautala expressed hope that the issue will get resolved through talks soon.
"I am hopeful that in the next 24-40 hours, there will be another round of talks and some conclusive statement can come out of that," the Jannayak Janta Party (JJP) leader said after meeting Tomar.
Chautala also said the crop procurement at the government-decided MSP (minimum support price) would be ensured for each farmer till the time he was part of the state government.
Farmers are said to be the core of the JJP's voter base in Haryana.
"We all need to sit and finalise... I am hopeful the way the Centre is engaging with protesting farmers and has given a 24-page reply to the demands of the farmers union, the situation at borders will normalise with a mutual agreement and there would be a conclusion to this issue with mutual consent," he said.
"The solution will be found only through dialogue. Umeed pe duniya kayam hai (Live revolves around hope)," he said.
The JJP leader also met Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and Goyal earlier in the day.
Delhi Police tightens security at border points
Delhi Police on Saturday increased deployment of personnel and placed more concrete barriers at various border points.
The developments come after farmer leaders on Wednesday rejected a government proposal to amend the new agri laws and announced they would intensify their agitation by blocking the Jaipur-Delhi and the Yamuna expressway by Saturday.
"So far, there is no protest at Delhi-Gurgaon border. There is no disruption in traffic movement. However, we have proper security arrangements in place to deal with any situation," an officer was quoted as saying by PTI.
The police have made adequate arrangements and these include multi-layered barricading and deployment of personnel. Measures have also been taken to ensure commuters do not face inconvenience at places were protest are being staged, another senior police officer said.
The Delhi Traffic Police has deployed its personnel across important border points to ensure commuters do not face difficulties and is constantly updating people about open and closed routes on its Twitter handle.
In a tweet, the traffic police on Saturday informed commuters about the closure of the Singhu, Auchandi, Piau Maniyari and Mangesh borders.
Since these borders are closed, it suggested that motorists take alternative routes via Lampur, Safiabad, Saboli and Singhu School toll tax borders.
Traffic has been diverted from Mukarba and GTK Road. So, commuters have been advised to avoid Outer Ring Road, GTK Road and National Highway-44, the traffic police said.
Due to the ongoing farmers' protests, it said that both the Chilla and the Ghazipur borders are also closed for traffic from Noida and Ghaziabad.
"The Chilla & Ghazipur borders are closed for traffic from Noida & Ghaziabad to Delhi due to farmers protests.People are advised to take alternate route for coming to Delhi via Anad Vihar, DND, Apsara & bhopra borders," it tweeted.
The Tikri and the Dhansa borders are also closed for traffic movement but the Jhatikara border is open only for two wheelers and pedestrian movement, the traffic police said in a tweet.
Those going towards Haryana, can take Jharoda (only single carriageway), Daurala, Kapashera, Badusarai, Rajokri NH 8, Bijwasan/Bajghera, Palam Vihar and Dundahera borders as they are open, the traffic police said.
The government had asked farmer groups to consider its proposals for amending the laws to address their concerns and said it was open to discussing its offer further whenever the unions want.
Farmers leaders on Thursday also announced they would block railway tracks across the country if their demands were not met by the government and would announce a date for that soon.
At least five rounds of formal talks have taken place between the Centre and representatives of farmers, mainly from Punjab and Haryana, protesting on various borders of the national capital for over two weeks, but the deadlock has continued with the unions sticking to their main demand for the repeal of the three contentious laws.
With inputs from PTI
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