- Two rounds of talks this week have fallen through
- This is the biggest farmers’ protest in years
- A nationwide shutdown has been called by farmers on Tuesday
Hours before the third round of talks between the government and protesting farmers, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, Home Minister Amit Shah, Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar are meeting at Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s house, say sources, as the protests across the country intensify against the controversial agriculture laws amid growing support. Thousands of protesters camping around Delhi-borders are insistent on the laws being repealed, and two rounds of talks this week have fallen through despite repeated assurances from the government on the minimum support price for the agricultural produce. This is the biggest farmers’ protest in years and numbers continue to swell at Delhi’s borders amid the novel coronavirus pandemic, which has affected over 96 lakh people across India.
Here are 10 developments in this big story:
A nationwide shutdown has been called by the protesting farmers on Tuesday (December 8). Last evening, as 40 farmers’ union met at Delhi-Haryana border, they said they’ll block all roads to the national capital, adding they’ll also occupy all highway toll gates across the country.
Today’s meeting – the third in a week – will take place at 2 pm at Delhi’s Vigyan Bhawan. Thursday’s talks fell through after the farmers’ representatives made a 39-point presentation on the inadequacies of the contentious new farm laws. Before the massive protest began last week, the centre had held similar discussions twice before, trying to convince farmers that new agricultural laws are meant to bring reforms.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has defended the new laws and said they only give an option to farmers to sell to private buyers. After a seven-hour long meeting on Thursday, Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar said “the government has no ego”, suggesting it is open to expand the discussion.
A petition filed in the Supreme Court on Friday sought immediate removal or shifting of the protesting farmers, quoting the top court’s judgment on the protests against the centre’s controversial citizenship law. “Life of lakhs of people protesting at Delhi Borders is at immediate threat. If by chance this coronavirus disease takes the shape of community spread, it will cause a havoc in the country,” said the petition.
Thousands of farmers – who were met with barricades, water cannons and tear gas as they marched to the capital city – have cut off major entrances to Delhi. Traffic has been disrupted on key roads near the borders with the neighbouring states – Haryana and Uttar Pradesh.
Several Bollywood actors, sports personalities, political leaders, and transport unions have come out in support of the protest. Earlier this week, former Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal became the first to return his award in protest against the treatment of the protesting farmers by the Central government.
Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee have been vocal in their criticism of the government’s handling of protests. The protests also triggered political spat between Amarinder Singh and Arvind Kejriwal; Captain Singh has also hit out several times at Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar over the action against the farmers.
At least three deaths have been recorded during these protests and the farmers said it would be “inhuman” on the centre’s part – given the cold weather – to drag this out any further. Punjab government on Thursday announced financial assistance of Rs 5 lakh each to the families of two farmers who died during protests against the Centre’s farm laws
Union Home Minster Amit Shah has met Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, Mr Tomar, Railway Minister Piyush Goyal several times this week over the issue, say sources. Last week, he offered to hold talks and told farmers to shift to a venue suggested by the government – an offer that was rejected.
Farmers say the laws will deprive them of the minimum prices fixed by the government and leave them at the mercy of corporates.