The Samyukta Kisan Morcha (Non-Political) and the Kisan Mazdoor Morcha have begun their 'Delhi Chalo' rally on Tuesday in order to urge the Central government to meet their demands. These demands, among other, include the implementation of a law ensuring a minimum support price (MSP) for crops.
Over 200 farmers' unions have jointly called for this march to the national capital, addressing the ongoing concern of obtaining a law guaranteeing MSP (Minimum Support Price) for their produce, one of the conditions they had set when they agreed to withdraw their agitation in 2021.
Despite talks on Monday between union leaders and the government, no resolution was reached, as farmers accused the government of delaying responses to their demands. The farmers' and the trade unions have also planned a rural strike, for February 16 where all agricultural activities will be halted.
In anticipation of the farmers' march, Delhi Police has implemented Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code in Delhi for a month, banning public processions and bringing several other restrictions. The Haryana government has also imposed similar restrictions in as many as 15 districts, prohibiting the assembly of five or more people
What are demands from the farmer's side?
The farmer unions are now demanding the following.
Enact a law guaranteeing MSP for all crops, as per the Dr. Swaminathan Commission’s report
The Minimum Support Price is a price set by the government based on a formula derived from the Swaminathan Committee, which was a government-formed panel to resolve issues faced by farmers. This ensures that farmers receive a fair and remunerative value for their produce.
The government announces MSPs for various crops before the planting season, and procurement agencies are directed to purchase crops from farmers at or above these specified prices. Even if the produce is not sold in the marketplace, then the government buys it from the farmers at the promised price.
The three farm laws of 2020 had no mention of the MSP, and hence became a major bone of contention between farmers and the government. While Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his government verbally promised farmers that the MSP system will stay, the farmer agitation lasted for over an year, till the laws were finally repealed.
The farmers group claim that the Centre had made a commitment for giving legal guarantee to MSP when the farmers protested against the three now-repealed farm laws but the government is not fulfilling its promise because of pressure from the corporate sector.
Provide a complete debt waiver to farmers and labourers
The farmer groups have also called for a comprehensive loan waiver. Darshan Pal, the President of Krantikari Kisan Union, told media that the farmer groups are advocating for a comprehensive one-time loan waiver without any stipulation on the amount or land ownership.
He emphasised that this demand is not novel, and three additional requests were introduced after the cessation of the protest in 2021. These included a call for loan waiver, provision of pensions for farmers, and fair compensation in instances of crop damage.
Reintroduce the Land Acquisition Act as it was pre-2013
The Land Acquisition Act of 1894, as it existed, governed the process of acquiring private land for public purposes. The primary objective of the law was to facilitate the acquisition of land by the government for infrastructure and development projects.
Under this Act, the government had the authority to acquire private land for public use, provided that adequate compensation was paid to the landowners. However, the Act faced criticism for not adequately addressing the concerns of landowners and for not ensuring fair compensation. In 2013, the Government of India replaced the 1984 Act with the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation, and Resettlement Act (LARR Act), aiming to provide a more comprehensive and fair framework for land acquisition.
The farmers have been protesting against the amendments for quite some time now. According to the farmers, the introduced amendments were solely intended to benefit the real estate sector, and does not represent the genuine market price compensation for them.
Hold accountable those responsible for the Lakhimpur Kheri tragedy and ensure justice for the impacted farmers
According to the farmers, the Centre should provide justice for victims of the Lakhimpur Kheri violence. On October 3, 2021, four farmers, Nakshatra Singh, Gurvinder Singh, Lavpreet Singh and Daljeet Singh, were killed in Uttar Pradesh’s Lakhimpur Kheri after a convoy of three SUVs, including one owned by Union Minister Ajay Mishra Teni, hit a group of people protesting the Centre’s farm laws. Mishra’s son Ashish was allegedly driving one of the SUVs.
As per the Samyukta Kisan Morcha, the 2020-2021 farmer protest saw over 670 deaths. However, in a response to the question, during the Monsoon session of 2021, on whether the Centre proposes to provide financial assistance to the family of farmers who died during the agitation, the government stated, “The Ministry of Agriculture and Farmer’s Welfare has no record in the matter and hence the question does not arise.”
Repeal Electricity (Amendment) Act 2023
The Electricity (Amendment) Act 2023 passed last year aims to improve competition and efficiency among power distribution companies, enhancing fair access for consumers. The most debated change in the bill is the provision allowing multiple power distribution companies in one region, potentially ending the monopoly of one power network in an area.
Since the draft of this bill was introduced, farmer groups have raised a fear of an increased privatisation of the power sector in the country. They also had apprehensions regarding the possibility of losing subsidies provided to farmers for electricity.
India should quit World Trade Organisation (WTO)
Farmers in India have been calling for the country to quit the WTO due to concerns about increased privatisation of the power sector and potential loss of subsidies for electricity.
In light of this, Dinesh Abrol, convener of 'Indian People's Campaign Against WTO' had argued that the WTO primarily serves the agenda of developed nations, such as the United States, and that the Indian government, particularly under the BJP, has not taken a strong stance to protect domestic farmers. The fear is that the agreements made in the WTO benefit developed nations while undermining the livelihoods of farmers in developing countries like India.