New Delhi, Oct 2 (IANS) As the nation celebrated Gandhi Jayanti, hundreds of farmers on Tuesday faced police baton in a clash at the Delhi-Uttar Pradesh border when they were prevented from entering the national capital even as the government agreed to consider seven of their 15 demands.
The farmers, who were lathicharged and teargassed after water canons failed to subdue them earlier in the day, rejected the government assurances and vowed to continue the protest till they are allowed to go to Kisan Ghat, the memorial of former Prime Minister Charan Singh, and Rajghat, the memorial for Mahatma Gandhi.
While both sides said there was agreement on some of the demands of the farmers, there was no clarity on the main issues: the loan waiver and higher MSP raised by the Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU). A few thousand farmers were still camping at the border in Ghazipur on Tuesday night.
Hours after the violence, representatives of the BKU which had planned to conclude its 10-day protest at the Kisan Ghat in Delhi met Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh and discussed 15 demands that included loan waiver and higher Minimum Support Price (MSP) for their produce.
The government’s assurances include review petition in the National Green Tribunal (NGT) to revoke the ban on 10-year-old diesel vehicles (tractors), bringing farm-related products under 5 per cent bracket of Goods and Services Tax (GST).
Extension of MSP providing 50 per cent profit over the production cost to all notified Rabi crops, boosting procurement system were among the other assurances.
Minister of State for Agriculture Gajendra Singh Sekhawat, who was present in the talks, told the media later that a consensus has been reached between the government and the protestors on many of the demands. How to go ahead on fulfilling these demands was also discussed, he said.
“The government is silent on our demand for loan waiver. Also, it said that fixation of Minimum Support Price based on ‘C2’ input factor as per the Swaminathan Commission’s recommendations will be done only in future,” said BKU General Secretary Yudhvir Singh.
Earlier in the day, continuing their 10-day march from Haridwar in Uttarakhand to the national capital, thousands of protesting farmers were prevented from entering Delhi. When they tried to forcibly move ahead by breaking police barricades, police used water canons and batons that left over a dozen agitators injured. Several rounds of tear gas were also fired.
Prohibitory orders banning the assembly of five or more persons have been clamped in several areas near the border and will continue till October 8.
Defending the crackdown, Deputy Commissioner of Police Pankaj Kumar Singh said permission to hold the march had been denied and the farmers’ entry to Delhi was illegal.
The protest led to a political slug-fest, with the opposition slamming the Modi government for the crackdown on the farmers and the BJP calling the agitation “politically motivated”.
Congress President Rahul Gandhi flayed the Centre for not accepting the loan waiver demand and said that farmers today “cannot even talk about their ordeal”.
“Farmers from all states, be it Maharashtra, Haryana or Uttar Pradesh, have been pleading with folded hands for a loan waiver. Modi, in the last four years, waived loans of 15-20 people to the tune of Rs 320,000 crore but he is not bothered about farmers,” Gandhi said in Wardha in Maharashtra.
The Congress passed a resolution at Wardha condemning the “arrogant and barbaric Modi government”.
“Reeling under debt, the poor farmers had come to remind Modi of his promise of providing farmers a profit of 50 per cent or more over and above the cost of production and seek loan waivers.
“Skyrocketing prices of diesel and fertilisers have already broken the farmers’ back and to compound their misery, the Modi government has imposed 5-18 per cent Goods and Services Tax on agricultural goods,” the party said.
Expressing his solidarity, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said: “Why are farmers not being allowed to enter Delhi? This is wrong.”
Samajwadi Party chief and former Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav blamed the Modi government for not fulfilling the promises made to farmers.
“In the last five years, over 50,000 farmers have committed suicide, with most suicides occurring in BJP-ruled states,” he said.
Communist Party of India-Marxist General Secretary Sitaram Yechury blamed the Modi government for the “unprecedented agrarian crisis in the country”.
The Bharatiya Janata Party, on the other hand, said the farmers’ protest was politically motivated.
“There is a reason behind it. Because this is an election year… For so many people there are different motives. That is the only reason. Otherwise, farmers across the country are very satisfied and thankful to the Modi government,” Minister Shekhawat said.
He said the Modi government had announced assured Minimum Support Price (MSP) with 50 per cent profit over the production cost but the farmers were not concerned about the formula used while fixing MSP.
The farmers want revoking the ban on 10-year-old tractors in the National Capital Region, reduction in electricity tariff, implementation of the recommendations of the M.S. Swaminathan Commission on remunerative prices and payment of sugarcane arrears among others.