India

Farmers’ Unions Threaten ‘4 Million’ Tractors Will Surround Parliament in Delhi if Laws Not Revoked

What started with a group of farmers protesting against the farm laws on Delhi’s borders in November 2020, has transpired into one of the biggest protests India and the world have seen so far. As the Indian farmers are about to enter the fourth month of protests, their push to make the government revoke the three laws has gotten stronger, they say.

Farmers on around “40 lakh” (four million) tractors will barge into Delhi and surround the Parliament building to demand a complete abandonment of the three farm laws that were passed in September 2020, Rakesh Tikait, one of the farmers’ union leaders claimed late on Tuesday.

The Indian Parliament building stands in the heart of the nation’s – on the high profile Raisena Hills, right next to the Rashtrapati Bhavan (Presidential Residence). If the farmers do execute this mega tractor rally to the Parliament, it could choke several parts of Delhi – from its borders to its centre, where the iconic building is located.

The last major tractor rally in Delhi however, ended in violent clashes between the farmers and security officials on 26 January, when India marked its 72nd Republic Day. The iconic Red Fort was invaded by protesters and the “Nishan Sahib” flag, significant to Sikh culture, was hoisted next to the Indian national Tricolor.

​Visuals of riot-struck Delhi on social media had shown police officials using batons and tear gas on the protesters, and the latter retaliating with swords and other weapons.

In the last months, the agitating farmers have been using different ways of protesting in India to attract public attention to their cause. Earlier this week, thousands of agricultural workers from across the country observed a four-hour long “Rail Roko” protest in their respective cities and villages. During the protests, farmers sat on railway tracks obstructing trains. They also engaged with stranded passengers to explain their side of the story.

​Previously, the protesting farmers blocked state as well as national highways throughout India to mark their agitation against the laws.

​India’s main opposition party Congress is also supporting the farmers against Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government. Former Congress President Rahul Gandhi has been touring different parts of India including Rajasthan and Kerala – organising tractor rallies as well as mustering large crowds.

​Even after several rounds of discussions between farmer leaders and government officials, no middle ground to diffuse the situation has come up as of now.

While PM Modi and his government back these three farm laws, calling them “progressive”, the farmers fear these laws will dilute the minimum support price (MSP) system, as the new laws permit farmers to enter into supply contracts with any procurer in the country. Farmers fear that this could lead to their sector being dominated by big business.

As many as 248 farmers have committed suicide, died in accidents or of natural causes during the ongoing protest, according to the data collected by the farmer union Sanyukat Kisan Morcha (SKM). The farmers, however, have time and again told the media that they will not budge from their cause unless the government meets their demands.

The two new farm bills and one amendment act that stirred this controversy are- the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020; Farmers Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020 and The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act 2020. They were passed during the monsoon session of the Parliament in September last year.

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