Thousands of Indian farmers continued their protest against the three farm laws on the first day of 2021 on Friday outside several border points of Delhi in the biting cold as they remained firm in their demands amid a deadlock with the government over two issues. Hundreds of police personnel have been deployed at Singhu, Ghazipur and Tikri border points, where the farmers have been camping since November 26, even as the minimum temperature dipped to 1.1 degrees Celsius.
The Samkyukt Kisan Morcha, according to news agency PTI, is likely to meet during the day to discuss its next course of action. Senior farmers' leader Gurnam Singh Chaduni has said there is, however, no question of withdrawing from the two issues which are a legal guarantee for minimum support price (MSP) and repealing of the farm laws, PTI reported.
"The government has addressed our demands to drop penal provisions against farmers in an ordinance relating to stubble burning and to put on hold a proposed electricity amendment law," Chaduni said. "But, we want to make it clear that there is no alternative to our two remaining demands which include repeal of the three agriculture laws and legal guarantee for MSP," he added.
PTI reported that the All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee, one of the protesting farm unions, has issued a statement saying the Centre's appeal to farmer leaders to suggest an alternative to repeal of the laws is impossible. "The new laws will hand over control of agriculture markets, farmers' land and food chain to corporates," the committee said in the statement.
Union agriculture minister Narendra Singh Tomar had said, after the sixth round of talks between ministers and a 41-member representative, on Wednesday that consensus has been reached on two of the four issues. Tomar had also said that the next meeting with farmers representatives will be held on January 4. Tomar said the union leaders kept insisting on the repeal of the three farm laws, but the government side tried to explain to them the benefits of the acts and sought to know specific problems faced by the farmers. The minister said the government has already said that it is ready to give a written assurance as he talked about the farmers' demand for a legal guarantee for procurement at Minimum Support Price (MSP).
As the farmers' protests continued, Delhi Traffic Police alerted commuters about the routes that remained closed due to the agitation and suggested alternate roads. "Tikri, Dhansa Borders are closed for any Traffic Movement. Jhatikara Borders is open only for LMV (Cars/ Light Motor Vehicles), two wheelers and pedestrian movement," they said in a series of tweets. "The Chilla and Ghazipur Borders are closed for traffic coming from Noida & Ghaziabad to Delhi because of farmer protests. Please take alternate route for coming to Delhi via Anand Vihar, DND, Apsara, Bhopra & Loni Borders," they added.
"Singhu, Auchandi, Piau Maniyari, Saboli & Mangesh borders closed. Please take alternate route via Lampur Safiabad, Palla & Singhu school toll tax borders.Traffic has been diverted from Mukarba and GTK road. Please avoid Outer Ring Road, GTK Road & NH-44," they said. "Available Open Borders to Haryana are Jharoda (Only Single Carriageway/Road), Daurala, Kapashera, Badusarai, Rajokri NH-8, Bijwasan/Bajghera, Palam Vihar and Dundahera Borders," the Delhi Traffic Police said in another tweet.
The government has said that the three farm laws, which were brought in September last year, have are major reforms in the agriculture sector that will remove the middleman and allow farmers to sell their produce anywhere in the country. The protesting farmers, however, have expressed apprehension that the new laws would pave the way for eliminating the safety cushion of MSP and do away with the mandi system, leaving them at the mercy of big corporates. On its part, the Centre has reiterated the MSP and mandi systems will stay and has accused the opposition of misleading the farmers.
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi took a dig at the Centre over the farm laws in his New Year's message on Friday. "As the New Year begins, we remember those who we lost and thank all those who protect and sacrifice for us. My heart is with the farmers and labourers fighting unjust forces with dignity and honour. Happy New Year to all," he tweeted.