Farmers groups and political parties plan to intensify protests against the three farm bills that were signed into law on Sunday by President Ram Nath Kovind, who ignored demands that he withhold his assent to the legislation that the opposition has described as anti-farmer and corporate-friendly.
Punjab chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh will stage a sit-in protest against the contentious laws on Monday at Khatkar Kalan, the ancestral village of freedom fighter Shaheed Bhagat Singh, on his birth anniversary. Others participating in the protest are state affairs in-charge Harish Rawat, all state Congress MPs and MLAs, said the Congress party’s Punjab unit chief Sunil Jakhar on Sunday.
This will be Amarinder Singh’s first protest against the farm bills. Former Uttarakhand chief minister and Congress general secretary Rawat will also be visiting Punjab for the first time since taking charge of state affairs.
Punjab cabinet minister Charanjit Singh Channi and Nawanshahr MLA Angad Singh visited a Bhagat Singh memorial on Sunday to oversee arrangements for Monday’s sit-in. Channi said the Congress was on the verge of launching a long-term campaign against the Central government over the farm bills from Bhagat Singh’s village, with more plans expected to be announced by the CM to compel the Centre to withdraw the legislation.
Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) chief Sukhbir Singh Badal said President Kovind’s assent to the three bills marked a “dark day for democracy and farmers.”
“Extremely sad that @rashtrapatibhvn refused to heed farmers & Punjabis’ cries & has signed #FarmBills and J&K bill excluding #Punjabi as official language. Hopes that President will act as nation’s conscience & return Bills to Parliament dashed,” Badal tweeted.
SAD had on Saturday snapped ties with the Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) at the Centre to protest against the bills that farmers say put the interests of corporate entities above their own. Farmers groups have also expressed concern that the laws may pave the way for the dismantling of the minimum support price system.
The Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020, seeks to give freedom to farmers to sell their produce outside of the notified Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC) market yards.
The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020, will give farmers the right to enter into a contract with agribusiness firms, processors, wholesalers, exporters, or large retailers for the sale of future farming produce at a pre-agreed price.
The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020, will remove commodities like cereals, pulses, oilseeds, onion, and potato from the list of essential commodities and will do away with the imposition of stock holding limits.
On Sunday, farmers squatted on the Amritsar-Delhi railway track on Sunday, continuing their rail blockade protest against the contentious farm bills. People from nearby villages brought cooked food and other items for the demonstrators. Community kitchens were organised at the protest site by local gurdwaras.
Women wearing saffron dupattas also joined the protest, raising slogans against the Centre, and said they would not allow the implementation of the three legislations.
Farmers, under the banner of the Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Committee, have been staging a sit-in on the rail track in Punjab since last Wednesday.
Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Committee general secretary Sarwan Singh Pandher demanded that all the sitting 13 MPs from Punjab resignation their seats with immediate effect in support of the farmers’ demands. He asserted that BJP leaders would not be allowed to enter the villages of Punjab.
The committee has announced an extension of its campaign against the bills till September 29. Trains services have been suspended in the state because of the protests.
Farmers have expressed apprehension that the Centre’s farm reforms would pave a way for the dismantling of the minimum support price system, leaving them at the “mercy” of big companies.
The Trinamool Congress came out in support of the Shiromani Akali Dal for quitting the NDA government at the Centre. In a tweet on Sunday, TMC national spokesperson and Rajya Sabha MP Derek O’ Brien offered the party’s support to SAD, which received a positive response from the Punjab party’s president Sukhbir Singh Badal.
“We support Sukhbir Singh Badal and Akali Dal’s stand with the farmers. Fighting for farmers is part of Trinamool DNA. In 2006, Mamata Banerjee risked her life on a historic 26 day fast for farmers’ rights. We oppose #FarmBills2020 as they endanger States’ role, MSP, PDS and procurement,” O’Brien said on Twitter.
“Derek – your stand against the #AgricultureBills in parliament is well known. Appreciate your support,” Badal said on the micro-blogging website in response to the TMC leader’s tweet.