NEW DELHI: To mark completion of four months of their agitation against the three Central farm laws, the protesting farmers on Wednesday gave a call for Bharat bandh on March 26. The farmers will observe “Mandi bachao, kheti bachao’ on March 19.
Meanwhile, Bharatiya Kisan Union leader Rakesh Tikait said he would visit West Bengal, which is going to polls, later this week and appeal to the farmers to defeat the BJP.
Here are the key developments of the day:
1. Farmer unions called for a Bharat bandh on March 26, when their protest at Delhi’s borders against the Centre’s three new farm laws completes four months. Farmer leader Buta Singh Burjgill said farmers along with trade unions will protest the hike in fuel prices and privatisation of railways on March 15. “We will observe a complete Bharat bandh on March 26, when our protest against the three farm laws completes four months. The peaceful bandh will remain effective from morning till evening,” he told reporters at the Singhu border. On March 19, the farmers will observe “Mandi Bachao-Kheti Bachao” day, he said. The farmer unions have also decided to celebrate ‘Shaheedi divas’ of Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev, Burjgill added. Farmers leaders also said that copies of the new farm laws will be burnt during ‘Holika Dahan’ on March 28.
2. BKU leader Rakesh Tikait said he will go to Kolkata this week to urge farmers to defeat the BJP in the West Bengal Assembly elections, but claimed he is not supporting any political party. Farmers are distressed, and election will be discussed with them, Tikait said, adding that he is not going to West Bengal to seek votes. “I will go to Kolkata on March 13. The clarion call for a decisive struggle will come from Kolkata. We will talk to farmers there and urge them to defeat the BJP,” the BKU leader said. He was in Ballia to address a ‘Kisan Mahapanchayat’. Replying to a query if he would meet West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, Tikait said there was no such programme. The farmer leader said a call has already been made to defeat the BJP in the five Assembly elections scheduled to begin from March 27, but asserted that he would not support any political party.
3. The Delhi Police has strengthened security along the Delhi-Uttar Pradesh border to prevent any possible repeat of the violence that broke out during the farmers’ tractor parade on January 26, Union minister of state for home G Kishan Reddy said. The minister’s written reply in the Rajya Sabha came in response to a question from AAP member Narain Dass Gupta on whether nails were fixed on the road at the farmers’ protest site near the Delhi-Uttar Pradesh border. Reddy said the Delhi Police has informed that on January 26, the Samyukt Kisan Morcha broke the barricades, in violation of permission granted for taking out Kisan tractor parade on a mutually accepted route and it proceeded towards central Delhi despite being stopped at other barricades inside the city and broke those barricades as well. “In view of this experience, and the manner in which the protesting farmers used tractors as weapons for breaking the barricades and injuring policemen, the barricades at the Delhi-Uttar Pradesh border were strengthened to prevent any possible repeat of the conduct displayed on January 26,” he said.
4. Senior BJP leader Harjit Singh Grewal accused the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC), the apex religious body of Sikhs, of going against its mandate by getting involved in the ongoing farmers’ agitation and giving it a religious colour. SGPC chief Bibi Jagir Kaur hit back saying the religious body is well aware of its duties and that Grewal should keep his advice to himself. In a letter to Kaur, a copy of which was released to the media, Grewal took strong exception to her recent announcement that the SGPC will set up tin sheds and provide fans for the convenience of farmers protesting at Delhi borders. The BJP leader said, “The prime role of the SGPC is to manage the affairs of the gurdwaras. Being a purely religious body, by getting involved in the farmers’ agitation, which comprises farmers from all religions and castes, the SGPC is going completely against the mandate given to it under ‘The Sikh Gurdwaras Act, 1925’ and ‘Punjab Act 8 of 1925’… Not only the SGPC is going beyond its brief by doing all this but it is also giving the farmers’ agitation a religious colour, which is extremely unfortunate and uncalled for.”
5. The Punjab Assembly passed a resolution condemning the ED raid on rebel AAP member Sukhpal Singh Khaira. The resolution was brought by parliamentary affairs minister Brahm Mohindra in the Budget session in Chandigarh. Mohindra said the resolution was brought with the permission of chief minister Amarinder Singh. “This house expresses concern on the current role of the central agencies such as CBI, ED which have been set up to ensure transparency in public life. Unfortunately, there have been apparent instances wherein these agencies have been used to harass innocent people including farmers, artists and politically elected representatives and even some government officials,” said Mohindra.
6. Rajya Sabha proceedings were disrupted for the third day in a row as the Congress and other opposition parties created an uproar demanding a discussion on three new farm laws of the Centre. The proceedings were first adjourned till 12 noon and then again till 2 pm after the opposition members trooped into the Well of the House raising slogans. Repeated pleas by chairman M Venkaiah Naidu and then by deputy chairman Harivansh to restore order went unheeded as the opposition members continued to create a ruckus in the House. The House will meet next on Monday. Soon after the laying of papers, leader of opposition Mallikarjun Kharge said notices have been given under Rule 267 for the suspension of the listed business for the day to discuss the three farm laws and issues related to farmers. As the opposition members raised slogans demanding withdrawal of the three farm laws, the chairman “disallowed” the notices, saying the issue was discussed in the first leg of the ongoing Budget Session. He asked the agitating members to return to their seats and said the farmers’ issue could be discussed during the debate on appropriation bills and finance bills. “I request you to allow under Rule 267 to discuss this issue…till then it will not be fair…without taking notice of this, we cannot proceed. So we request that you suspend all the rules and take it,” Kharge said.
Naidu said he has gone through the notices given by Deepender Singh Hooda, Rajeev Satav, Partap Singh Bajwa (all three from the Congress), Manoj Kumar Jha (RJD) and Tiruchi Siva (DMK) about the need to discuss the farmers’ issue and to suspend all other business of the House. “About these notices, I would like to say that this House, in this session itself, in the first part, has discussed farmers’ issues and the farmers’ agitation…I have disallowed the notice,” the chairman said.
7. The Congress accused the government of disregarding parliamentary convention by not allowing the opposition to raise issues and said violation of the practice is striking at the root of democracy. It alleged that the opposition’s voice was being “throttled” in Parliament and the government was not cooperating but instead throwing the constitutional rules and procedures in “tatters”. Senior Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge, who is also the leader of opposition in Rajya Sabha, attacked Prime Minister Narendra Modi, accusing him of indulging in “self promotion” and said “there was a limit to getting oneself photographed”. Congress leader Deepender Hooda said matters of urgent national importance are taken up under Rule 267. “Government has not said one word of sympathy for the protesting farmers who died during the agitation. No condolence should be shown to them,” he said referring to around 300 farmers who died. Hooda alleged that the government first dubbed farmers as terrorists, then no condolences were given, their demands were trashed and today even the demand for a discussion was not taken up.
8. The three farm laws enacted by the Centre are aimed at benefitting big businessmen, former Rajya Sabha MP and in-charge of Himachal Pradesh Congress Rajeev Shukla said in Shimla. Addressing the party’s “Jan Aakrosh Rally” at Chaura Maidan, Shukla also accused the central government of doing injustice to farmers. He said a large number of farmers have been camping at Delhi borders with Haryana and Uttar Pradesh in protests against the farm laws for over 100 days, but the Narendra Modi government has been oblivious of their plight. Recalling Prime Minister Modi’s slogan “Desh nahi bikane dunga”, Shukla said the central government is now trying to sell public sector units created with people’s money in the last 70 years.
9. Delhi Police has registered 38 cases against people, including foreigners, following the January 26 violence in the capital during the farmers’ protests, Union minister of state for home G Kishan Reddy informed the Lok Sabha. Delhi Police has informed that no road has been dug up at the city’s borders in view of the agitation but security is strengthened, the minister said. “The Delhi Police has informed that 38 cases have been registered against the persons, including foreigners, who violated various legal provisions, including cyber crime, recently in Delhi, while protesting in the name of farm laws,” he said replying to a written question. The minister said Delhi Police had informed that the Sanyukt Kisan Morcha broke barricades on Republic Day in violation of the permission granted for taking out a tractor parade on a mutually accepted route. He said the protestors proceeded towards Central Delhi despite being stopped at other barricades inside the city and broke those barricades as well.
(With agency inputs)