NEW DELHI: The farmers protesting against the three central farm laws would observe Saturday as a ‘Black Day’ to mark completion of 100 days of their agitation. They have reiterated that their movement was going strong and they would not move from the three points at the Delhi borders till their demands were met.
Here are the key developments of the day:
1. As the farmer agitation against the Centre’s three farm laws enters its 100th day on Saturday, union leaders have asserted that their movement is far from over and they are “going strong”. The marathon movement has sent out a message of unity, made “farmers visible once again” and brought them back on the political landscape of the country, they said. For over three months, the three Delhi border points at Singhu, Tikri and Ghazipur have transformed into townships occupied by thousands of farmers from different parts of the country, mainly Punjab, Haryana and western Uttar Pradesh. To mark the completion of hundred days, March 6 will be observed as ‘Black Day’ as part of which the Kundli-Manesar-Palwal (KMP) expressway will be blocked for five hours, according to a statement from the Samyukt Kisan Morcha (SKM), a coalition of protesting farmer unions. Rakesh Tikait of the Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) said they are prepared to continue the protest as long as it is required. “We are completely prepared. Unless and until the government listens to us and meets our demands, we will not move from here,” Tikait, who is among the leaders at the forefront of the movement,” he said.
2. Congress leader Rahul Gandhi has reiterated that the three agri laws have to be repealed by the government. Gandhi said that farmers, who wait patiently for the harvest after sowing seeds, are not afraid of months-long wait or bad weather. The Congress leader has been supporting the farmers’ protest against the three central farm laws, and has attacked the government over the legislations on several occasions. “Those who wait patiently after sowing seeds, they are not afraid of months-long wait or bad weather. The three farm laws have to be repealed,” Gandhi tweeted in Hindi. Participating in the debate on the Union Budget in the Lok Sabha on February 11, he had alleged that these legislation would damage the country’s food security system and also “break the spine of farmers” and that the country is being run by only four people with a ‘Hum do, Hamare do’ approach.
3. Right to protest means the right to peaceful protest and not to resort to violence of any kind, even on provocation, observed a Delhi Court while granting bail to a 19-year-old youth in a case related to the violence on Republic Day during farmers’ tractor parade against the Centre’s three new agri-marketing laws. The court said though the riot which broke out on that day was violent and none of the act of the rioters/protesters comes within the purview of democratic right of protest, the guilt or innocence of the applicant is a matter of trial and nothing can be said about it at this stage. The relief was granted to the youth after the police said he has not been seen in any video footage committing the violence at the spot. Additional sessions judge Samar Vishal granted bail to Sumit on furnishing a bail bond of Rs 25,000 with one surety of like amount in the case of violence in Nangloi area. The court noted that out of the 20 accused persons arrested in the case, 19 have already been released on bail.
4. Union agriculture minister Narendra Singh Tomar stressed the need to increase private investment in the farm sector and asked entrepreneurs to set up food processing units. The minister was addressing a summit on ‘Agriculture and Food Processing Opportunities in Madhya Pradesh’ organised by the ministry of food processing, in partnership with ASSOCHAM and Invest India through video conference, according to an official statement. Tomar, who is also the food processing minister, encouraged entrepreneurs to set up food processing units in the country, and assured them that the government will provide all possible help. He informed that the government is granting speedy approvals to the food processing projects. “The Union minister also stressed on the need to bring private investment and latest technology in the field of farming,” the statement said. Tomar stated that the government is making continuous efforts to increase the income of the small farmers. Stating that 86 per cent of farmers in the country are small farmers, the minister said self-sufficiency of villages and growth of agriculture sector cannot be imagined without their empowerment.
5. Amid the continuing protest over the new agri-marketing laws, Haryana governor Satyadeo Narain Arya has said the state government has taken several “decisive steps” towards doubling farmers’ income. In his address at the beginning of the Budget session in the assembly, Arya said the Haryana government has “vigorously pursued” in the Supreme Court the Sutlej-Yamuna Link (SYL) Canal issue, over which the state is locked in a dispute with neighbouring Punjab. Unlike the Congress government in Punjab which supports the farmers’ protest over the three new laws, the BJP-led ML Khattar government has backed the central legislation. Listing the steps taken to increase farmers’ income, Arya said Haryana procured nine crops from its own budget under the minimum support price (MSP) over the past year and also topped up the subsidy under the mission for integrated development of horticulture. Haryana offers the highest price in the country of Rs 350 per quintal to its sugarcane farmers, he said.
6. With UK’s MPs set to debate next week the safety of farmer protesters, the ministry of external affairs has said Indian missions in the UK have made available facts about the three farm laws to the government, legislators and civil society of that country. British lawmakers will debate the issue of press freedom and safety of protesters in India next Monday in response to an e-petition, which had crossed the 1,00,000-signature threshold required for such a debate, the House of Commons Petitions Committee had confirmed earlier this week. Asked about the development at an online briefing, ministry of external affairs spokesperson Anurag Srivastava said, “All our missions abroad work to provide right information on the happenings in India to the respective governments and people of that country… In this context, our High Commission in London and our Consulates in Birmingham and Edinburgh have made available the facts about the three farm laws to the UK government, UK’s MPs and civil society.” Besides that, information is also being provided about the government’s efforts to resolve this issue through a dialogue with farmer unions, he said.
7. Young Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg‘s recent comments on the farmers’ protests in India do not form a bilateral issue between India and Sweden, and the matter did not come up during an online summit between the prime ministers of the two countries on Friday, the ministry of external affairs said. At a special briefing after the summit, Vikas Swarup, secretary (west) in the ministry, was asked whether the issue of Thunberg’s comments on the farmers’ protest was taken up by India with Sweden during the meeting. “The answer is no. This is not a bilateral issue between India and Sweden,” Swarup said. Last month, Thunberg had taken to Twitter to say, “We stand in solidarity with the #FarmersProtest in India.” This was followed by another tweet a day later, in which she shared “a toolkit for those who want to help”.
8. The Samyukt Kisan Morcha has sought a judicial probe into the violence that occurred on January 26 in Delhi during a tractor parade held by protesting farmers demanding the repeal of the Centre’s three contentious agriculture laws. “We demand a high-level judicial probe into the incident that happened on January 26 where a peaceful ‘kisan parade’ was intentionally disrupted and the route was blocked under a deep-rooted conspiracy hatched by the Delhi Police at the instance of Union government,” Morcha’s legal panel convener Prem Singh Bhangu said. The SKM’s legal panel also denounced the alleged repressive measures and violation of human rights by the Centre and the Delhi Police to foil the “peaceful” agitation of farmers at the borders of Delhi. Bhangu along with other members of the legal panel demanded immediate release of the farmers lodged in different jails of Delhi and withdrawal of “false cases” registered against farm leaders and farmers. The panel also demanded scrapping of notices being issued to farmers in Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Uttrakhand “under the garb of joining investigation with intention to implicate them in false cases”.