Ahead of talks with the government, thousands of farmers on Thursday took out tractor-march from protest sites of Singhu, Tikri and Ghazipur borders and Haryana's Rewasan against the three agriculture laws amid heavy police deployment. According to the protesting farm unions, this is just a "rehearsal" for their proposed January 26 tractor parade that will be moved into the national capital from different parts of Haryana, Punjab and Uttar Pradesh.
Bharati Kisan Union (Ekta Ugrahan) chief Joginder Singh Ugrahan said that farmers participated in the march with over 3,500 tractors and trolleys. Ugrahan, whose union is one of the largest farmer organisations in Punjab, said that they will not accept anything less than the repeal of the three farm laws.
The eighth round of talks between protesting unions and the central government is scheduled to be held on Friday. The last meeting remained inconclusive on Monday as farmer groups stuck to their demand for the repeal of the three laws, while the government listed out various benefits of the new acts for the growth of the country's agriculture sector.
On Thursday, farmers started the tractor march around 11 am and moved towards Kundli-Manesar-Palwal Expressway amid heavy deployment of Delhi Police personnel and their counterparts from Haryana and Uttar Pradesh. Perched on their tractors, protesting farmers moved slowly through the protest sites, with speakers on their vehicles belting out music keeping their spirits high. Other protestors lined the path providing fellow farmers with all kinds of supplies, including peanuts, fritters, tea, and newspapers.
At Ghazipur protest, the tractor march, led by senior BKU leader Rakesh Tikait, moved towards Palwal.
"In the coming days, we will intensify our agitation against the three farm laws. Around 2,500 tractors from Haryana have participated in today's march. We want to warn that if the government doesn't not accept our demands, farmers' protest will get intensified further," Abhimanyu Kohar, a senior member of Samkyukt Kisan Morcha, told said.
The tractor march started from four different points -- Singhu to Tikri Border, Tikri to Kundli, Ghazipur to Palwal and Rewasan to Palwal.
"The government has been hosting meeting after meeting. They know what we want. We want the laws to be repealed, but all we get are futile talks. With this rally, we want to give them a glimpse of what we can do, and what we will do on January 26. Today, the rally is happening on the periphery of Delhi, but when our farmer leaders decide that we need to enter the capital, we will do that," Harjinder Singh, a participant of tractor march from Punjab's Hoshiarpur, said.
Thousands of farmers from Punjab, Haryana and some other parts of the country have been camping at several Delhi border points since November, demanding repeal of farm laws, a legal guarantee on minimum support price for their crops and other two issues.
Last week, the government agreed to exclude farmers from penal provisions of the Air Quality Management ordinance and to not pursue the draft Electricity Bill. The seventh round of talks between protesting unions and three Central ministers ended inconclusively on Monday as farmer groups stuck to their demand for the repeal of three laws, while the government listed out various benefits of the new Acts for the growth of the country’s agriculture sector.
Govt won't repeal farm laws
Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar said he remains hopeful of a solution in the next meeting on January 8, but asserted that efforts need to be made from both sides for a resolution to be reached (taali dono haathon se bajti hai). While several opposition parties and people from other walks of life have come out in support of the farmers, some farmer groups have also met the agriculture minister over the last few weeks to extend their support to the three laws.
Last month, the government had sent a draft proposal to the protesting farmer unions, suggesting seven-eight amendments to the new laws and a written assurance on the MSP procurement system. The government has ruled out a repeal of the three agri laws.