NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s fulsome endorsements of the farm laws for over two months leaves little elbow room for any possibility of a climb-down by the government in its negotiations with the agitating farmers.
Unlike the land ordinances after the government had ceded to some of the demands of opposition and farmers, Modi has gone far ahead in owning up the farm laws calling them as historic reforms.
“There is a clear difference between the NDA government retreating on the land ordinances and the farm laws. The land ordinances were brought during the early days of the NDA government. The Prime Minister had not publicly owned up the ordinances. The NDA government hadn’t yet gained the might in pushing contentious legislations in the Parliament,” said a senior government official.
In 2015, PM had announced in his “Mann ki Baat” that the government would allow the land ordinance to lapse.
The ordinance had sought to do away with necessity of public hearings and environmental assessment in acquisition of land on the grounds that the time consuming exercise would affect the big ticket infrastructure projects by the private sector.
In contrast, the farm legislations saw the light of the day when the Centre realised that the States were not willing to amend APMC Acts despite NITI Aayog, on the PMO’s directions, pursuing the states with a model Bill during 2014-19.
Modi is known to keep agriculture on top of his priorities, with several initiatives credited to have originated from the PMO rather than the Krishi Bhavan.
Protesting farmers step up agitation, block Ghaziabad-Delhi stretch on NH-9
Scaling up their stir against the Centre's new farm laws, thousands of protesting farmers from Uttar Pradesh blocked National Highway-9 near the UP Gate on Thursday while those from Punjab and Haryana stayed put at other border points leading to the national capital as they remained adamant on their demands.
The protesting farmers had on Wednesday threatened to block other roads of Delhi in the coming days if the new agriculture laws are not scrapped soon.
Security personnel at border points - Singhu, Tikri, Chilla and Ghazipur - stand guard, with the ongoing protests entering their eighth day.
The demonstrations are expected to continue as talks between three union ministers and a representative group of thousands of agitating farmers failed to yield any resolution on Thursday.
Bharatiya Kisan Union leader Naresh Tikait held a 'maha panchayat' at one of the protest sites -- Gazipur border.
He said there was no midway for settlement on the issue of MSP, adding that the government must give assurance in writing to farmers.
Thousands of farmers, who were staying put at the Ghazipur Border under a flyover, suddenly started gathering with tractors at the NH-9 on Thursday leading to disruption of traffic from Ghaziabad to Delhi and later blockade of the busy stretch.
"The local police have closed the routes on NH-9 and NH-24 from Ghaziabad to Delhi. On NH-1, both sides of the route have been closed near Shani Mandir," the Delhi Traffic Police tweeted.
Farmers from several districts of western Uttar Pradesh continued their sit-in demonstration at the Chilla Border between Noida and Delhi amid heavy deployment of security personnel.
The protest also led to partial closure of a key road connecting Noida and Delhi.
One carriageway of the Delhi-Noida Link road, from Delhi to Noida - was open for commuters, while the other side --- Noida to Delhi, remained closed, causing inconvenience to travellers.
Noida Deputy Commissioner of Police Rajesh S said, "The law and order situation is under control even though some protestors are continuing with their demonstration on and near the border."
One of protestors at the Singhu Border claimed the new farm laws will pave way for the dismantling of the minimum support price system, leaving them at the "mercy" of big corporates.
From fixing cars and tractors free of cost to serving sugarcane juice to doctors attending to protestors, Rantir Singh, a mechanic from Punjab, has taken up many roles to ensure farmers camping at Delhi's Singhu border for the last eight days can continue their agitation.
"My brother, Jaswant Singh, is camping at the Tikri border and doing the same. He too is a mechanic," says Rantir, from Punjab's Barnala district.
Rantir said he has travelled all the way from his village where he has a garage.
"I have already fixed 30 to 35 tractors of the farmers here at Singhu border. This is 'sewa' for which we do not charge anything. I have also repaired two to three cars," Rantir told PTI.
The Delhi-Haryana border at Jharoda and Jhatikra remained closed for traffic movement.
The Badusarai border is open only for two-wheeler traffic.
However, people can travel to Haryana through Dhansa, Daurala, Kapashera, Rajokri, NH 8, Bijwasan/Bajghera, Palam Vihar and Dundahera border points, the traffic police have said.
The police also kept the Haryana-Delhi border at Singhu and Tikri closed for traffic for the eighth day on the trot.
"Singhu border is still closed from both sides. Lampur, Auchandi & other small borders also closed. Please take alternate routes. Traffic has been diverted from Mukarba Chowk & GTK Road," the traffic police tweeted.
On Wednesday, the seventh day of the protest, the farmers demanded that a special Parliament session be convened to repeal the new farm laws.
The farmer unions also called for a nationwide protest on Saturday to oppose what they claimed was the "corporatisation" of farming.
From Punjab, farmers' stir becomes pan-India affair
In Rajasthan's Kota, thousands of farmers from four districts of Kota division took out a protest march on Thursday to demand the withdrawal of the Centre's new farm laws.
The protestors under the aegis of Akhil Bhartiya Kisan Sangarsh Samanya Samiti assembled at Shahid Smark in the city in the noon and submitted a memorandum to the district collector.
The farmers, some of them riding in tractor-trolleys, marched through main roads of the city and raised slogans against the agri bills.
A heavy police force was deployed in the area.
The farmers termed the laws anti-agriculture and demanded that the Union government immediately revoke it.
"The laws will put an end to the mandi system to which every farmer is associated across the country and it does not say a single word on MSP," Abdul Hamid, Kota district president of Kisan Sarvodaya Mandal, said.
He claimed the laws will benefit only big industrialists and businessmen.
The Bundelkhand Kisan Union on Thursday warned the government of intensifying their stir and launch a "decisive battle" for the repeal of the laws.
"The three laws passed by the Union government are anti-farmers. They will not help farmers in any way and will only force them to commit suicide," said BKU national president Vimal Kumar.
"The government should immediately convene a special session of the Parliament and withdraw all the three controversial laws and set up a 'Krishi Ayog' consisting only of agriculture scientists and farmers," Sharma said.
He said about 500 farmers of the Bundelkhand region are starting form the GIC ground here to Delhi later on Thursday.
"If the government does not announce the withdrawal of these laws, they will step up the agitation for a decisive battle," he said.
Sharma also alleged that the Banda district administration has been trying to intimidate him on phone since Wednesday night so that the farmers from here do not reach Delhi.
"There is also an attempt to create differences among farmers," he alleged.
The Bharatiya Kisan Union (Bhanu group) also cautioned against moves to divide the farmers protest.
Talking to media on Wednesday, BKU UP chief Yogesh Pratap Singh and General Secretary Shailendra Pal Singh said apart from revocation of the new farm laws, the farmers have also been demanding forming a Farm Commission comprising agricultural scientists and farmers.
The BKU leaders said more farmers from surrounding districts are expected to join them in the coming days.
Meanwhile, the Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) held a meeting here Wednesday evening in support of the farmers stir.
Several farmers' organisations on Thursday held a protest in Nashik city of Maharashtra.
The organisations, including Shetkari Samanvay Samiti, Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana, Prahar, Janshakti, Chhava and Krantiveer, held demonstrations at the district collectorate in Nashik to express their solidarity with the farmers agitating in New Delhi.
They demanded that these farm laws should be rolled back immediately and warned of intensifying their agitation.
The organisations alleged that due to the new farm laws, farmers and their lands will be at the mercy of the capitalists and these legislations have been passed for a few industrialists in the country.
Meanwhile, the city and district units of the Congress party also held protests against the new farm laws, alleging that the government was anti-farmers.
The agitators said the Centre should cancel the law by December end.
(With PTI Inputs)