Bharat Bandh: Talks to continue as farmers continue march to Delhi

Farmers from Punjab are camping at the Shambhu and Khanauri borders of Punjab and Haryana, as the ‘Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU), which is part of the Samyukt Kisan Morcha (SKM), has called for a ‘Gramin Bharat Bandh’ today, citing a host of unmet demands.

Farmer groups are striking and looking to march towards Delhi to press the Centre to accept their demands.

Haryana Roadways employees have backed the bandh call and all toll booths will remain free for three hours as part of the strike.

Bharat bandh: Why are farmers protesting?

Farmer groups claim the Centre has failed to meet some of their key demands from the previous protests.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the ruling BJP had repealed a set of agricultural laws that the protesting farmers said would hurt their incomes.

Farmers’ unions now claim that the government hasn’t made progress on other important demands including

  • doubling of farmers’ income
  • loan waivers
  • legislation for a major demand that will guarantee minimum support prices (MSP)

MSP, farmer groups argue, acts as a safety net for the farming community, as margins for the farmers can be protected because they are guaranteed a minimum rate for their yield.

Farmers groups claim costs of cultivation have jumped over the past few years while incomes have stagnated, making farming a loss-making enterprise. They also insisted the government ensure they would receive at least 50 per cent profit over their overall cost of production.

The farmers held their third meeting with the government late last night, hours before their nationwide strike.
They are also asking for the withdrawal of cases registered during the last agitation in 2020-21.

Bharat Bandh: The 2020-21 agitation against the Farm Laws

In November 2021, the government’s announcement that the controversial farm laws would be repealed was widely seen as a victory for the farmers. At the time, the government said it would set up a panel of growers and government officials to find ways to ensure support prices.

The government had defended the three farms laws as necessary reforms to modernize Indian farming, but farmers feared the government’s move to introduce market reforms in agriculture would have an adverse financial impact.

The protests, which began in northern India, triggered nationwide demonstrations and drew international support. Dozens of farmers died due to suicides, bad weather as well as Covid-19, which had ravaged the nation in the second wave.

Farmers accuse the government of going slow in fulfilling their promises and farmer organizations have called for a suspension of all agricultural work between 6 am-4 pm, with road blockades staged across the country.

Current situation on ground during ‘Bharat Bandh’

Unauthorized gatherings have been banned in Noida and other parts of Gautam Buddh Nagar district in view of the ‘Bharat Bandh’

Senior leaders of nine Central Trade Unions will protest at Jantar Mantar in Delhi, even as offices and banks are expected to stay open.

The farmers-police standoff continued at the Punjab-Haryana border with the farmers asserting they will continue with their march, armed with six months of ration.

Two Union Ministers Arjun Munda and Piyush Goyal, and Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann attended the third round of talks in Chandigarh, after protesters faced tear gas and water cannons.

Munda, Union Minister of State for Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare, told reporters the issues will be discussed in detail at the 6 pm meeting on Sunday, during which the two sides will try to find a solution.

Mann said they had a ‘very positive conversation and a consensus was reached’ on several issues.

The farmers have assured they would maintain peace during ‘Bharat Bandh,’ also accusing the Haryana government of sending their cops into Punjab during the standoff.

The farmers say they will continue their march to Delhi and that no conclusion can be drawn since the talks are still on. They also took up the issues of police action on them and their social media accounts.