Farmers protesting against the Centre’s farm laws at the border of Delhi have decided to step up their protest with a four-point programme. The last of these is a plan to block railways across the country on February 18, said Samyukt Kisan Morcha, a conglomerate of farmers’ organisations.
The farmers, buoyant from their successful three-hour road block last week, have decided to go for another time-bound programme. The railway blockade will take place for four hours, from noon to 4 pm, farmer leader Darshan Pal said in a statement.
The four-point programme will begin on February 12, with a plan to make toll plazas across Rajasthan “free”.
Since the beginning of their protests on Delhi borders in November, the farmers have taken over toll plazas in several parts of the country and allowing vehicles to pass for free. The move ha hugely irked the Central and several state governments, which have been trying to take back the toll plazas.
On February 14, a candle-light march and other programmes will be organised across the country, to honour the sacrifice of the soldiers in the Pulwama attack.
February 16 — the birth anniversary of Sir Chhotu Ram, titled the Messiah of farmers for his push towards pro-farmer laws — will be marked as Solidarity Day.
The issue of farm laws had ripples in parliament today as the Congress and Bengal’s ruling Trinamool Congress walked out of the Lok Sabha when Prime Minister Narendra Modi mentioned the issue.
Calling reforms a must, PM Modi said the country must think of small farmers. “A majority of the farmers in India barely manage to survive by providing for their families. They just need a little hand-holding from us all to help them get better resources to earn a better life for themselves,” he said.
The Prime Minister, who had underscored the Centre’s last offer to the farmers — suspension of the farm laws for 18 months while negotiations take place — today said, “We have to be reasonable. Even now, we are saying that bring us the specific clauses with which there are problems, and we will find the solution. Let us sit and find the solution. But bring valid reasons”.
He also took on the Congress and other opposition parties supporting the farmers’ protest and said it is “spoiling the peaceful protest”.
“Toll booths are run both by the Centre and the states. Blocking and taking over these toll plazas and booths, breaking them, not allowing them to function – is that not harming the farmers’ cause? In Punjab, breaking mobile towers, harming infrastructure, carrying out acts of vandalism – does that not harm the peaceful protest of farmers?” he added.
The deadlock over the farm laws has not been resolved despite multiple rounds of meetings between the Centre and the states. The farmers have been holding out for complete scrapping of the three laws, following concerns that it would lead to a phasing out of the guaranteed prices offered by the government and they would be left at the mercy of big corporates.
The government has said that the laws will help increase the farmers’ income by allowing them to sell their crops anywhere in the country.