Thousands of farmers have marched towards the (NCT) National Capital of Delhi on their tractor-trolleys and other vehicles protesting against the Centre. Here, the protest is being popularly referred as the "Delhi Chalo Protest" from the Delhi- Haryana border with respect to the three agriculture-marketing laws or farm laws enacted at the Centre in the month of September due to their fear that the new farm laws will dismantle the monopoly of the Mandi System in India indirectly and the Minimum Support Price System.
What is happening at Delhi Chalo Protest?
Thousands of farmers crossed from Punjab to Haryana. The Haryana Police tried to stop them with water cannons and tear gas near the Delhi- Haryana border. Later they were permitted through.
A large group of farmers or protesters camped for the night near Panipat. On the second day, protesters gathered at Delhi's border at Tigri and Singhu.
Police used teargas and water cannons to prevent them from breaking through barricades, which included sand-laden trucks.
There were clashes with the police at other points as well on the highway to Delhi as it passed through BJP-run Haryana.
The standoff continued at Delhi's border. More and more farmers were making their way from Punjab and Haryana.
Their major demand is the withdrawal of the three farm laws and preventing the alleged dismantling of the MSP system and monopoly of the APMC regulated Mandis.
The recent protests by the Farmers Union against the farm Laws are not only the one that have been highlighted. Punjab faced many parallel setbacks targeting farmers. There is a very significant historical parallel here that is; the protests by the Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) between 1978 & 1984 and Operation Blue Star and then a later crackdown by the government, harmed farmers mobilisation in Punjab.
What farmers fear?
Farmers fear that the promulgation of the three farm laws-The Farmers Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020; The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020; and The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020 will result in the destruction of the MSP system as previously, the farmers use to sell their produce at Mandis in every State in return of a Minimum Selling Price that are already set by the Government. The recent laws are providing the farmers with an additional system where they will be able to sell their produce to private players outside the Mandis thus, generating fears in the minds of the farmers that they might get a price for their produce even below MSP.
History of Farmers Protests in Punjab: What lies behind?
Bharatiya Kisan Union Protests (1978- 1984)
The green revolution brought wealth and opulence but also certain kind of challenges for the farmers. A major political consequence was related to the Left-backed farmers Unions who went out of action and thus Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) emerged as a result that was dominated by relatively well-to-do farmers who acted as the driving force behind farmers protest by the late 1970s. Subsequently, farmers politics changed from being a political alternative to a pressure group that was willing to oppose or negotiate with any political party.
BKU Punjab between 1978 and 1984 conducted numerous major protests in the state voicing their demands for higher procurement prices for wheat and paddy, subsidised electricity, diesel, fertilisers and waiver of loans.
The protesting farmers were predominantly Jatt Sikhs and the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) also usually supported such protests. In this 1984 protests, the major demand was relevant to the farmers indebtedness.
Notices were put outside villages, preventing entry of recovery staff without permission and saying that recovery of loans without proper accounting is illegal. Ultimately, the Central Government had begun to panic.
The then president of the Sikh Political Party Akali Dal, Harchand Singh Longowal came into action and declared that the next phase would be to stop the sale of food grains to the Food Corporation of India (FCI) and as Punjab was the grain bowl of India, this, would have shown some adverse effects like preventing sale of food grains to FCI meant the stoppage of supply of food grains to other parts of the country. This could be considered as a bargaining tactic with the protesting farmers or even a security threat.
Operation Blue Star and Ban on Protests (1984)
An incident took place when the Indira Gandhi government's negotiations with Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale broke down. Later, in 1982 Harchand Singh Longowal, the President of the Sikh Political Party Akali Dal's announcement, the government sent an army to Punjab. it carried out Operation Blue Star, sending the army into the Harmandir Sahib complex, where Bhindranwale and his followers had gathered with arms. This brought the BKU's protest to a sudden halt as all mass political gatherings were banned.
The military operation at the holiest places were the traumatizing attack or events for the entire Sikh Community. This not only impacted Sikh Community but bestowed dire consequences upon the farmers. Thus, the ban on political mobilisation continued for eight years until the year 1992, having a weakening effect on farm unions in Punjab resulting in the ban on protest for almost 8 years. These major incidences cannot be ignored that took place in Punjab effecting the farmers as the recent protest by the Farmers Union is quite relevant.
In India, over 70% of the rural population & national GDP depends upon the agriculture. Thereby, making it significant for the Governments that come & go to put special emphasis on the problems faced by the farmers in our country. Discussions are being held where the government representatives have been deciding to meet again to deliberate upon the issue of Farm bills. Currently, leaders of 40 farm organisations had been meeting with three ministers from the Central Government. Rounds of discussions have been taking place to address the concerns relating to the farm bills and farmers protests between the Government and the farmers. Therefore, we can foresee a possibility that the Government may agree to amend the Farm Laws amidst the agricultural law protests.