• Tuesday, April 16, 2024

HEADLINE STORY

Delhi tense as farmers threaten to march again

Multiple layers of concrete blocks and metal spikes have been placed on the highways to prevent farmers from marching into the capital

Police officers and workers erect a barricade on a national highway to stop farmers, who are marching towards New Delhi to press for the better crop prices promised to them in 2021, at the Singhu border in New Delhi, India, February 13, 2024. REUTERS/Anushree Fadnavis

By: Shajil Kumar

Two key border points between Delhi and Haryana state remain closed for traffic as farmers’ ‘Delhi Chalo’ agitation entered the third day on Thursday.

Multiple layers of concrete blocks and metal spikes have been put in place at Delhi’s Singhu and Tikri borders with Haryana as well as at the Ghazipur border with Uttar Pradesh.

Thousands of farmers on tractors are riding towards New Delhi in a revival of past protests that saw highways into the capital blockaded by agricultural machinery for more than a year.

The farmers have been stopped by the Haryana Police at the Shambhu border between Punjab and Haryana states, nearly 200 km from Delhi, but they have vowed to press ahead.

A panel of three Union ministers have arrived in Chandigarh on Thursday to hold talks with protesting farmer leaders.

Agriculture and farmer welfare minister Arjun Munda, minister of commerce and industry Piyush Goyal and minister of state for home affairs Nityanand Rai will meet the farmer leaders.

This will be the third round of talks between the two sides: the previous two rounds of dialogue on February 8 and 12 remained inconclusive.

The farmer leaders have said the next course of action will be decided on the basis of the central government’s proposals.

In 2021, the farmers had carried out a successful campaign demanding repeal of new laws deregulating agricultural markets.

Farm union leaders say the government has not done enough since then to alleviate their hardships, prompting them to again move to the capital to make their demands heard.

The Samyukta Kisan Morcha (Non-Political) and the Kisan Mazdoor Morcha are spearheading the agitation to put pressure on the Centre over their demands.

One of their foremost demands is to expand these minimum support prices (MSP) to include all crops to shield them from market fluctuations.

The Modi government promised to consider this demand after the last farmer protests in 2021, but unions say nothing has been done since.

They also want criminal charges against union leaders over the last protests to be dropped and a monthly pension of $120 for farmers over 60.

They are also seeking debt relief, India’s withdrawal from the World Trade Organization and free trade agreements, and assurances that existing subsidies, including free electricity, will continue.

The Haryana government on Thursday extended the ban on mobile internet and bulk SMS services in seven districts by two days till February 17. All telecom service providers in the state have been directed to comply with the order.

The authorities fear that the agitators will misuse the internet to spread rumours and inflammatory materials.

On Tuesday, farmers from Punjab faced tear gas shells at two border points as protesters tried to break past barricades set up by the Haryana Police to stop them from heading to the national capital.

In protest, farmers squatted on railway tracks in Haryana on Thursday, leading to the cancellation and diversion of many trains. (Agencies)

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