Farmers Plan Parliament Marches: Issue People’s Whip to MPs
IN its meeting held at the Singhu border on July 14, 2021, the Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM) announced detailed plans of its parliament protest marches. From July 22 onwards, on every day of the monsoon session of parliament, batches of 200 farmer volunteers and leaders shall march towards Parliament House in a peaceful manner following the guidelines of discipline laid down by the SKM. The daily batches of protestors shall comprise farmer leaders and volunteers drawn from various organisations across the protest camps at the borders of Delhi as well as from other parts of the country.
Special parliament protest marches exclusively by women farmer leaders and volunteers shall be on July 26, the day the struggle completes eight months, and on August 9, the anniversary of Quit India Day. After talks with the central trade unions, the SKM will also announce a massive joint countrywide protest on August 9. Women farmers have been at the forefront of this long and historic struggle of farmers for their livelihood and future and the special marches on these two days shall highlight the unique and memorable role that women have played.
SKM took serious note of a reported statement-call made by an organisation named Sikhs for Justice based abroad. Such calls given by a separatist organisation are anti-farmer and against the interests of the farmers’ movement; hence SKM has strongly condemned the same. Neither SKM nor the farmers' protest has anything to do with such organisations and SKM calls upon them to desist from attempts to deviate and derail the just cause of the farmers, who are engaged in a long and arduous but peaceful and democratic struggle to secure their income and the future generation of farmers of India as well as the food security of 140 crore Indians.
PEOPLE’S WHIP TO MPs
On behalf of all farmers of India, the SKM on July 14 also issued a peoples’ whip. The peoples’ whip shall be served on all MPs of the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha. The MPs were informed that the peoples’ whip had been issued in accordance with the long established constitutional right of citizens to bring any matter of general public interest relating to the work of the union government before the parliament and parliamentarians. Thus, the MPs were directed to heed and act upon the same, treating is as a direct instruction of the constituents who have elected them as members of parliament and to whom they are constitutionally accountable. The people’s whip directed the MPs to raise the demands of the farmers agitation, namely to repeal the three black farm laws enacted by the union government during Covid times and to enact a law that gives a legal guarantee of receiving MSP of all crops to all farmers of India, in both houses of parliament and not allow either house of parliament to do any business till the union government assures to accede to the farmers demands on the floor of the houses. The MPs were also directed not to walk out of the houses which enables the ruling party to do their business unhindered and even if the MPs are suspended by the speaker/chairman of the houses, they should again go to the houses to oppose the union government. The people’s whip mentions that if the MPs fail to accede to the whip, the farmers of India will be compelled to oppose them on every stage.
In response to the call of the SKM, on July 8 there were protests against the hikes in fuel prices in hundreds of locations across India. In Punjab itself there were protests in 1800 locations. Today, petrol and diesel prices have touched around Rs 100 per litre and this price is higher than the cost of aviation fuel per litre. In 2014, the excise tax on diesel and petrol ranged from Rs 3.56 to 9.48 per litre; in 2021, it has gone up to Rs 31.80 per litre of diesel and 32.90 for petrol. Similar is the case of unaffordable prices of cooking gas. Recently, there has been a hike of Rs 25 per cylinder. There have been 62 hikes in fuel prices in 2021 alone!
SLAPPED ON FARMERS
Farmer leaders Harcharan Singh and Prahlad Singh along with about a hundred farmers have been booked under false cases by Sirsa police under grave charges of sedition, merely because they were protesting against the Haryana deputy speaker at Sirsa. SKM strongly condemned the false, frivolous and cooked-up sedition charges and indeed all other charges against farmers and farmer leaders under instructions of the anti-farmer BJP government of Haryana.
It may be recalled that in November 2020, this very Haryana government had unsuccessfully tried to stop farmers from marching to Delhi. The nation had borne witness to the barbarism of the Haryana government using water cannons, tear gas, barricades, barbed wire and digging up of roads against farmers. The same government now continues to use terrorising tactics against farmers by filing such cases with false and grave charges of sedition, merely because the farmers had shown black flags to BJP leaders at Sirsa. SKM shall assist all farmers and leaders in contesting these charges in court and assures the Haryana government that its terror shall be met by intensification of the struggle and protest by farmers.
On July 6, Maharashtra's Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government moved three bills making some amendments to the three central farm laws in the state assembly, and two months have been given for the public to give its feedback. While moving amendments to the three black laws in the state assembly, its ministers affirmed that the union government has no authority to trample on agriculture which is a subject that states have constitutional authority on. It was also acknowledged that there has been unacceptable repression unleashed on the protesting farmers, and that hundreds of farmers have been martyred so far, when they sacrificed their lives in the struggle. They saluted the historical and inspiring struggle of farmers which has been going on for more than seven months now. There was also a call to the union government to resume talks with protesting farmers again.
While these statements were welcome, it is also true that amending the central laws will not empower farmers or the farmers' movement. This was seen in the case of amendments moved by Punjab and Rajasthan governments also. Further, amending laws that the Supreme Court has put under suspension is inexplicable. It is also unjustified that when the kisan andolan is asking for a full repeal of all the three laws, the Maharashtra government is moving amendments to those very laws. It is clear that the state government is coming under pressure from corporations which will stand to benefit from the laws, and also perhaps coming under pressure from the union government.
Anticipating such developments, a week earlier on June 29, farmer organisations of the state under the AIKSCC banner met the chief minister, deputy chief minister and other senior MVA leaders to demand that the state government adopt a resolution in the state assembly demanding the repeal of three central black laws, as Kerala and some other states have done, and for a MSP guarantee law. They also demanded that any amendments of the Maharashtra APMC Act of 1963 should be undertaken only after running due democratic processes.
The Maharashtra government's effort at trying to amend the central farm laws was strongly criticised by the AIKSCC in a statement released on July 8. The state government move is even more deplorable, because all three parties of MVA had in the past supported the farmers' movement and its demands. This included a massive mahapadav from January 23 to 25, 2021 in Mumbai's Azad Maidan where MVA and other leaders also participated, and they also signed a statement by 12 opposition political parties supporting the farmers’ struggle in May 2021.