Will go ahead with 'Delhi Chalo' march, says farmer leaders after meeting with Union Ministers

After the meeting ended just before midnight, Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Committee general secretary Sarwan Singh Pandher said farmers would go ahead with the 'Delhi Chalo' march on Tuesday.
Police personnel stand guard during traffic restrictions at the Shambhu Border ahead of the scheduled march by the protesting farmers towards Delhi.
Police personnel stand guard during traffic restrictions at the Shambhu Border ahead of the scheduled march by the protesting farmers towards Delhi.(Photo| PTI)

CHANDIGARH: A team of Union ministers on Monday evening held talks here with farmer leaders in a bid to dissuade them from their 'Delhi Chalo' march, but the meeting remained inconclusive with a farmer leader asserting that they will go ahead with the protest.

In the meeting, the Centre is learnt to have agreed to withdraw the cases against the farmers registered during the 2020-21 agitation, sources said.

However, sources said, farmer leaders were adamant on a legal guarantee to minimum support price for crops, which is one of their key demands.

The ministers -- Food and Consumer Affairs Minister Piyush Goyal and Agriculture Minister Arjun Munda -- held the second round of talks with the farmer leaders at the Mahatma Gandhi State Institute of Public Administration in Sector 26.

Samyukta Kisan Morcha (Non-Political) leader Jagjit Singh Dallewal and Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Committee general secretary Sarwan Singh Pandher, among others, were part of the meeting, which began at around 6:30 pm.

Police personnel stand guard during traffic restrictions at the Shambhu Border ahead of the scheduled march by the protesting farmers towards Delhi.
Union ministers hold talks with farmer leaders in bid to dissuade them from 'Delhi Chalo' plan

After the meeting ended just before midnight, Pandher said farmers would go ahead with the 'Delhi Chalo' march on Tuesday.

"We do not think the government is serious on any of our demands. We do not think they want to fulfil our demands. Tomorrow, we will march towards Delhi at 10 am," Pandher told reporters after the meeting ended.

Minister Arjun Munda said a consensus was reached on most issues and the government proposed that the remaining be addressed through the formation of a committee.

"The government always wants that we can resolve every issue through dialogue. We are still hopeful and we welcome talks," he said.

In Delhi, massive deployment of police and paramilitary personnel besides multi-layered barricading have been made to seal the national capital borders at Singhu, Tikri and Ghazipur to prevent the protesting farmers from entering the city on Tuesday.

The Samyukta Kisan Morcha (Non-Political) and the Kisan Mazdoor Morcha have announced that more than 200 farmer unions will head to Delhi to press the Centre to accept their demands.

The first meeting with the Union ministers was held on February 8 in which detailed discussions with the leaders of farmer organisations took place.

In the meeting on Monday, the Centre is learnt to have agreed to withdraw the cases against the farmers registered during the 2020-21 agitation gainst the now-repealed farm laws, sources said.

However, the sources said, farmer leaders were adamant on a legal guarantee to minimum support price for crops, which is one of their key demands.

Pandher said, "We held a long discussion with them and we discussed every issue. Our effort was to avoid any confrontation. We wanted the issue to be resolved through dialogue with them. Had the government offered anything to us, then we could have reconsidered holding our agitation."

He claimed that the government's intention was not clean.

"It did not want to give anything to us. We told them to take a decision. They did not take any decision on the farmers' demand of giving legal guarantee to the minimum support price," he said, adding, "Tomorrow, we will march towards Delhi at 10 am."

Earlier in the day, tractor-trolleys in large numbers set out from different parts of Punjab to join the march.

Pandher said a convoy of tractor-trolleys set out in the morning from Beas in Amritsar to assemble in Fatehgarh Sahib district.

Many farmers from Moga, Bathinda and Jalandhar districts have also started from their villages to join the march.

Earlier, the farmer leaders, who were participating in the talks in Chandigarh, held a meeting in Amb Sahib in Punjab's Mohali before leaving for the city.

Authorities in Haryana have fortified the state's borders with Punjab at many places in Ambala, Jind, Fatehabad, Kurukshetra and Sirsa using concrete blocks, iron nails and barbed wire to scuttle the proposed march.

The Haryana government has also imposed restrictions under Section 144 of the CrPC in as many as 15 districts, prohibiting the assembly of five or more people and banning any kind of demonstration or march with tractor-trolleys.

Besides a legal guarantee for MSP, farmers are also demanding implementation of the Swaminathan Commission's recommendations, pensions for farmers and farm labourers, farm debt waiver, withdrawal of police cases and "justice" for victims of the Lakhimpur Kheri violence, reinstatement of the Land Acquisition Act, 2013, withdrawal from the World Trade Organization, and compensation for families of farmers who died during the previous 2020-21 agitation, among others.

In the national capital, traffic restrictions have been put in place and security arrangements intensified at the Singhu, Ghazipur and Tikri borders ahead of the march to prevent vehicles carrying protesters from entering the city.

The police are also using drones to keep a tight vigil at border points, an official said, adding that they are fully prepared to deal with any law and order situation.

Multiple layers of barricades with concertina wires, nails and huge concrete blocks and containers have been placed along the entry points to the national capital.

With traffic restrictions and security measures in place, the motorists had a hard time commuting between Delhi and NCR towns.

The Haryana Police and the Chandigarh Police have already issued traffic advisories, asking commuters to take alternative routes.

Ahead of the meeting with Union ministers, farmers' leader Dallewal alleged that many agriculturists, who were coming from other states, including Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh, to support the 'Delhi Chalo' march, have been detained, and sought their release.

Dallewal claimed that several farmers coming from Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka, owing allegiance to the SKM, have been detained in Bhopal.

"On one side, they (the Centre) are holding dialogues with us and on the other hand they are detaining our people. Then how will this dialogue take place?" the SKM (Non-Political) leader said.

On the heavy security arrangements at various points of the Haryana-Punjab border, Dallewal said the government's "nervousness" is visible.

"These are not our demands, these are the government's commitments," he said.

Meanwhile, a petition was filed in the Punjab and Haryana High Court against the sealing of borders and suspension of mobile internet services by the Haryana government in the wake of farmer outfits calling for a protest march to Delhi on February 13.

The petitioner, Uday Partap Singh, sought directions from the court to stay all "obstructive" actions by the governments of Haryana and Punjab and the Centre against the farmers' protest, alleging that they infringe on the fundamental rights and are "unconstitutional".

The matter is expected to come up for a hearing on Tuesday.

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