Chandigarh, February 12: Tractor-trolleys in large numbers on Monday set out from different parts of Punjab to join a planned farmers' march towards Delhi, even as a team of three Union ministers are scheduled to hold crucial talks here with a delegation of farmer leaders over their demands. More than 200 farmer unions are expected to participate in the 'Delhi Chalo' march on Tuesday to press the central government to accept their demands, including the enactment of a law to guarantee a minimum support price (MSP) for crops.
The farmer leaders, who will be part of 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 border 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. Farmers Protest: Section 144 in Delhi From Today for a Month in View of Tension and 'Social Unrest' Due to Farmers’ Delhi Chalo March, Say Police
The Samyukta Kisan Morcha (Non-Political) and the Kisan Mazdoor Morcha have announced that more than 200 farm unions would head to Delhi on February 13. The meeting between Union ministers Piyush Goyal, Arjun Munda and Nityanand Rai, and the farmer leaders was scheduled to start at 5 pm at the Mahatma Gandhi State Institute of Public Administration in Sector 26 in Chandigarh -- the joint capital of Haryana and Punjab. This is the second rounds of talks. The first meeting was held on February 8.
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 Organisation, compensation for families of farmers who died during the previous 2020 agitation, among others.
Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Committee general secretary Sarwan Singh 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. SKM (Non-Political) leader Jagjit Singh Dallewal said tractor-trolleys will assemble at Fatehgarh Sahib district and Mehlan Chowk in Sangrur on Monday evening. Farmer Protest: Samyukta Kisan Morcha Leader Seeks Release of Farmers ‘Detained’ During ‘Delhi Chalo’ March
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 Haryana Police and the Chandigarh Police have already issued traffic advisories, asking commuters to take alternative routes. Ahead of the meeting, farmers' leader Jagjit Singh Dallewal on Monday 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?" SKM (Non-Political) leader Dallewal said. "We have told the government that it should release our people. The government needs to create a positive atmosphere for dialogue," he 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. Haryana Home Minister Anil Vij said that major issues can be resolved through dialogue. On the security measures, he said that "we will do what is necessary to ensure the safety of our state's people and maintain peace". The Bharti Kisan Union (Doaba), which is part of the SKM, on Monday announced its support to the 'Delhi Chalo' march. The SKM had spearheaded the 2020 agitation against the now-repealed farm laws. But this time, it is staying away from the 'Delhi Chalo' call of the Samyukta Kisan Morcha (Non-Political) and the Kisan Mazdoor Morcha.
Several farmer bodies like BKU (Charuni), BKU (Ekta Ugrahan), BKU (Lakhowal), and BKU (Rajewal) are not part of the Delhi Chalo protest. The farmers have planned to head to Delhi from the Ambala-Shambhu border, Khanauri-Jind and the Dabwali border. At the Shambhu border near Ambala, authorities have filled the space between the barricades with cement in order to further strengthen it.
Near the Shambhu border, iron sheets have been installed along the two sides of the road on the Ghaggar flyover to prevent protesters from throwing police barricades off it. Water cannons and Vajra vehicles have been stationed and the Ghaggar river bed below has been dug up. Police have also made elaborate arrangements at Haryana's borders with Punjab in Jind, Fatehabad, Kurukshetra and Sirsa districts. Police also conducted mock drills with tear gas and water cannons at many places to prevent farmers from heading towards Delhi.
The Haryana Police has deployed 50 companies of paramilitary forces along with state police personnel in the state. Internet services and bulk SMS in seven districts -- Ambala, Kurukshetra, Kaithal, Jind, Hisar, Fatehabad and Sirsa -- have been suspended till February 13. In 2020, a large number of farmers from Punjab and nearby areas of Ambala gathered at the Shambhu border and broke police barriers to march towards Delhi. The farmers, mainly from Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh, held a year-long protest on Delhi's border points -- Singhu, Tikri and Ghazipur -- against the three now-repealed farm laws.