RAJEEV KHANNA | 30 SEPTEMBER, 2020
What Punjab–Haryana Farmers Have Set in Motion
Allies and state governments up in arms
The bandh on September 25 by farmers’ organisations and progressive associations and groups in Punjab and Haryana has triggered a cascade that will likely have long term ramifications.
The bandh achieved a union of forces for which efforts have been underway for several years.
“The struggle launched on September 25 has led to the unparallelled coming together of labour, farmer and other groups… People from all sections have seen through the facade of government misinformation and propaganda. They have realised that it is a farce,” All India Kisan Sabha joint secretary Vijoo Krishnan CPM said in a virtual interaction on Sunday.
“There is a need to focus on creating an alternate model. The cooperative model can be an alternative. The huge response from the people to the bandh call is a signal of things to come.”
According to the All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee, the umbrella body representing some 250 farmers’ organisations that organised the protests, farmers gave the Union a befitting reply to the three “black bills” conducting more than 20,000 protest programs attended by over 20 lakh people physically, and crores online.
Parliament passed all three bills by voice vote between September 15 and 22. On September 27 President Ram Nath Kovind signed them into law.
Besides the bills, an AIKSCC statement also drew attention to “other pro-multinational corporation, pro-corporate measures, like the hike in diesel and petrol taxes and prices, along with the New Electricity Bill 2020, which will raise the tariff to Rs 10.20 per unit.”
Meanwhile on the party front, the Shiromani Akali Dal (Badal) walked out of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance on Saturday night a marathon four-hour meeting of its core committee.
One of the NDA’s founding members, the Akalis are the second ally after the Shiv Sena to exit the alliance since the last general election. The BJP now has 303 seats in the Lok Sabha out of 335 for the NDA.
With SAD leader Harsimrat Kaur Badal quitting her cabinet post last week, her party was compelled to depart from the alliance as its core supporter base of farmers joined with other farmers’ organisations to oppose the three farm bills.
Announcing the end, SAD president Sukhbir Singh Badal said the bills would “lethal” and “disastrous” for the already beleaguered farmers.
“These are black laws and the SAD had resigned in protest against these bills. It could not be a party to a government or alliance which stands opposed to farmers, farm labourers, arhtiyas and other poorer and toiling sections of society,” he said.
Successive decisions taken by the incumbent government, Badal continued, had shown its callous insensitivity also to religious minorities and the imperatives of peace and communal harmony in the country, especially in Punjab.
However, the Akalis continue to face attacks from the governing Congress for having stuck with the BJP for so long.
Calling for Sukhbir Badal’s resignation as SAD chief, state rural development and panchayat minister Tript Rajinder Singh Bajwa of the Congress said the Akalis’ decision to sever ties with the BJP was in fact their “confession”.
“Instead of fighting to implement the federal structure in the country, distribution of river waters as per riparian act, giving back Punjabi speaking areas to Punjab and its capital Chandigarh, implementing the Swaminathan Commission report to get remunerative prices for agricultural produce to the farmers, and fighting for the release of Sikh prisoners who have been languishing in jails for a long time despite completing their sentences, the present leadership of SAD has always been confined to fulfilling their personal interests,” said Bajwa.
The BJP, which was the smaller partner of the Akalis in the state, now stands further marginalised on the political map of Punjab.
Meanwhile, Chief Minister Amarinder Singh termed the President’s assent to the bills as “unfortunate and distressing” and said his government was exploring all options, including possible amendments to state laws, to protect farmer interests.
All farmer organisations and other stakeholders would be taken into confidence before taking any decision on the way forward, he said, and his government was committed to procuring “every single grain” grown by farmers without compromising on the price.
The CM said his government was already in consultation with legal and agricultural experts besides everyone impacted by the “calamitous legislations” to decide a course of action in response.
Meanwhile across rural Punjab, farmers’ groups are getting Panchayat resolutions passed against the three agriculture bills.
In neighbouring Haryana, all eyes are on deputy CM Dushyant Chautala whose Jannayak Janata Party stands caught in a cleft stick. The Congress and the Indian National Lok Dal have intensified their attacks against him, daring him to quit the alliance.
Two JJP MLAs, Ram Karan Kala and Jogi Ram Sihag, joined with protestors at a recent demonstration in the state.
Chautala has stated that he will step down if there is any attempt by the Union government to discontinue the Minimum Support Price mechanism.
Reports are coming in daily of JJP and BJP leaders being heckled and abused by agitated farmers across villages in the states. People have reportedly warned the leaders of these parties to “stay away” from their villages.
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