Home / Politics / News /  Farmers hit the streets against contentious bills

New Delhi: For over a month now farmers in Haryana and Punjab have been protesting a set of new laws seeking to liberalise farm trade, and on Friday, the protests spread to several other states. Farmers blocked rail tracks and put up road blocks in Punjab and Haryana while in other states they demonstrated against the three new laws passed by the Parliament and are awaiting Presidential assent.

Outside Punjab and Haryana, protests were held in Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra and West Bengal, among other states.

“Demonstrations were held in thousands of locations across India with a spontaneity that surprised us," said Avik Saha, member of the organising committee of All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee, a coalition of over 250 farmer unions.

“We will continue to protest till the laws are withdrawn and force the government to give legal sanctity to its minimum support price (MSP) promise," Saha added.

The most contentious of the laws, The Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, seeks to create a barrier free regime where farm produce can be traded outside state regulated mandis, minus any taxes and fees. Another legislation, The Farmers Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, allows farmers to enter into contracts with buyers at a pre-agreed price. Following amendments to the Essential Commodities Act, the government has also signaled to traders and food processors that it will no longer impose arbitrary stock limits on essential food items.

In Telangana, farmers protested in nearly all districts and major political parties supported the agitation, said Kiran Vissa, convenor of Rythu Swarajya Vedika, a farmers’ group. “It seems the government did not expect this level of opposition to the bills. Now it is in a situation where the bills may fall through if states do not cooperate," Vissa added.

On Friday, as farmers protested the new laws, Prime Minister Narendra Modi urged his party workers to hit the ground to “bust the lies" and “inform farmers how the reforms will empower them." The government has also repeatedly said it will continue to procure at support prices.

However, farmer organisations are planning to hold the government accountable to its promise of MSP procurement. As the Kharif harvest starts arriving in the market, any significant plunge in crop prices could lead to more protests demanding support prices for crops like cotton, pulses and oilseeds.

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