A people's movement is being organized with farmers at the core. As the union government has failed to redress issues including a minimum support price it had agreed on when withdrawing the three "pro-corporate" farm laws in December last year, a large-scale mobilization is underway in agrarian states like Punjab and Haryana and several other parts of the country, through meetings, conferences, door to door campaigns and other means.

People are being asked to prepare for yet another long fight on the pending issues of farming as well as the new challenges created by government initiatives like the Agnipath scheme, with many farm households sending soldiers to the armed forces and central police. Sources on the ground say that apart from farm owners and labourers, workers in the non agrarian professions too will have to come together.

The Samyukta Kisan Morcha which is the umbrella organization of various groups and unions that led the successful movement against the three farm laws has come out with a plan involving protests and other programmes in different parts of the country. It has been working to re-forge the unity among different groups that was suspended or broken during the recent assembly polls.

Sources say the SKM has made considerable progress in bringing most of the organizations back into the larger fold, and those still keeping out are expected to join the ranks once the programmes begin, as "they would not be able to afford isolation for long".

The Morcha announced its programme after a meeting in Ghaziabad on Sunday attended by over 200 delegates from 15 states. It announced that the 16 organizations suspended from the SKM on the eve of the Punjab elections had been readmitted to the Morcha, adding that its doors would always be open to all the farmers and farmers' organizations of the country.

Expressing the hope that the farmers' struggle against "this oppressive government" would gain in power and intensity, in Ghaziabad the SKM expressed disappointment that New Delhi had completely reneged on the written promises made to farmers when the Morcha was lifted on December 9 last year.

"Neither has the committee on MSP been formed, nor have the false cases registered against the farmers during the agitation been withdrawn. The Government is trying to introduce the Electricity Bill in Parliament. The Government is not even ready to consider the biggest demand of the farmers, i.e. the legal guarantee of minimum support price," a statement issued by the leadership said.

As a result, protest meetings have been planned in 500 districts across the country during the monsoon session of Parliament scheduled to be held from July 18 to 31.

On July 31, which is the martyrdom day of Shaheed Udham Singh, there will be traffic blockades on all major highways across the country from 11 am to 3 pm. "Due care will be taken to ensure that the common public is not inconvenienced by this program," the SKM said.

It was also decided in the meeting that farm organizations will mobilize unemployed youth and ex-servicemen against the Agnipath scheme, described as "anti-national and anti-youth as well as anti-farmer". With a view to explain the harms of the scheme, a series of "Jai Jawan, Jai Kisan" conferences are planned across the country from August 7 to 14 with the participation of veterans and unemployed youth.

The SKM further stated, "Ajay Mishra Teni's continuance in the union cabinet, even 10 months after the Lakhimpur Kheri massacre is a cruel joke on the law and order situation of the country. From the beginning, the SKM has been committed to ensure justice to the farmers and has been providing legal and other assistance to the families of the victims. To raise this issue strongly, on the occasion of the 75th anniversary of Independence, the SKM will organize a 75-hour mass dharna at Lakhimpur Kheri from August 18 to 20 that will have farmers and workers participating."

Participants in the Ghaziabad meeting raised serious concern over the growing repression of farmers and civil rights activists. The SKM condemned the slapping of false cases against farmer leader Ashish Mittal in Allahabad in Uttar Pradesh, the police lathi-charge on farmers protesting against the high-voltage wire laid by a private business in Farakka, West Bengal, and the violent repression of protesting farmers in Chhattisgarh.

It added that, "The arrests of social activists and journalists such as Teesta Setalvad, RB Sreekumar, and Muhammad Zubair indicate increasing repression on democratic rights across the country. The SKM stands with all these activists and organizations in this democratic struggle."

There is palpable resentment meanwhile on the Centre's dilly-dallying on the MSP being sought by farmers on all agricultural produce.

"It is not the character of governments to accept demands easily. For this, pressure has to be exerted through people's movements. If the pressure is more they move towards accepting the demands, and if it is less they linger on," said Kanwaljit Khanna, who has been instrumental in organizing farmers' movements in the Jagraon area of Punjab.

He cited the recent movement in Punjab that has led the state government to announce relief for the state's moong producers, with Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann on Saturday announcing that the government would bear a price gap up to Rs 1,000 per quintal for moong crop sold below the MSP.

Mann said the incentive was being given to all moong cultivators, including those who have already sold their crop, and amendments to the rules have been made in this regard.

He said that the total arrival of moong in 2021-22 was 2.98 lakh quintals, whereas after the state government announced the MSP in the current season it is expected to touch 4 lakh quintals. He said he had received reports that due to damage to the crop, it was not being purchased at the MSP.

The chief minister said that more such steps would be taken soon to make agriculture a profitable venture.

The farmers contend that since only 6% of cultivators get an MSP and that too for a limited number of crops, a nationwide movement is needed to ensure that all cultivators of all crops are guaranteed a minimum support. They emphasise that the method of calculating the MSP remains questionable and want the Swaminathan Commission formula implemented.

"The government claims of procurement after the recently enhanced MSP does not even cover the cost of cultivation, let alone any income for the farmers," said Inderjeet, an All India Kisan Sabha leader from Haryana.

He said the claims of the government that it cannot afford to give MSP on all crops do not stand ground. "The issue relates to food security and self-reliance. If there is no proper procurement, there is no proper storage and hence no proper distribution. This directly impacts the public distribution system. The MSP and PDS are closely linked. It needs to be understood why India has slid down the world hunger index recently, at a time when we had enough stocks," he underlined.

The farmers are particularly annoyed with New Delhi's moves to convey that the MSP issue is hanging fire because the SKM hasn't proposed the names of those who would be part of the committee meant to work on the issue. The farmers say it is for the government to first issue a notification with the committee's terms of reference so they can respond accordingly. They are sceptical about the committee's composition and do not want it to be dominated by bureaucrats and others obedient to the government's point of view.

Sources say that before it came out with a clear-cut promise on the issue of MSP last December, the government had been trying to dilute the matter by trying to club the MSP with other issues like natural farming etc.

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