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regular-article-logo Saturday, 22 June 2024

Farmers warn government against 'dilly-dallying' till announcement of general elections

'We are not here to do politics. We are non-political and we are just trying to make our case before the government. The government should find a solution to our demands before the code of conduct comes into force'

Our Bureau New Delhi Published 19.02.24, 04:55 AM
Farmers at the Shambhu border in Ambala on Sunday.

Farmers at the Shambhu border in Ambala on Sunday. PTI picture

The protesting farmers on Sunday asked the government not to “dilly-dally” in the hope of dragging the discussions till the announcement of elections and then using the model code of conduct as a pretext not to commit to legally guaranteed minimum support prices for crops.

The warning came ahead of a fourth round of talks between Union ministers and the leaders of the farmers, thousands of whom are massed at interstate borders, prevented from marching on to Delhi.

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“Through you, we want to tell the government to stop the policy of dilly-dallying,” farmer leader Jagjit Singh Dallewal of the Bharatiya Kisan Union Ekta Sidhupur told journalists.

“The government wants to conduct one meeting after another till the model code of conduct is in place in the hope that it can be cited as a reason for not doing anything.”

He added: “The farmers are not going to return. Later, do not say that this protest is political. As it is, they (the government) allege that other political parties are sponsoring this movement.

“We are not here to do politics. We are non-political and we are just trying to make our case before the government. The government should find a solution to our demands before the code of conduct comes into force.”

The government has argued that it cannot enact a law guaranteeing minimum support prices (MSPs), as the farmers have demanded, as the last session of the 17th Lok Sabha is over.

On Saturday, Punjab Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Committee general secretary Sarwan Singh Pandher had suggested the ordinance route as a way out.

Dallewal on Sunday contested the government’s claim that several of the farmers’ demands have been met.

He underlined that the government had not addressed key issues relating to MSPs and the removal of Union minister Ajay Mishra Teni, whose son is accused of involvement in the Lakhimpur Kheri killing of four farmers and a journalist under a car’s wheels.

He said the government had conceded some ground only on issues arising from the successful 2020-21 protest against three farm laws, such as the cases against the agitating farmers.

Conscious of the inconvenience caused to commuters by the police barricading against the protesters in Punjab, Haryana and Delhi, Dallewal urged the government to work out a quick solution.

He underlined that the barricades had been put up several days before the farmers began their protest on February 13.

While the protest sites remained calm over the weekend, with farmers awaiting Sunday’s meeting, the agitation drew support from different quarters.

Several Haryana farmer unions have decided to back the protest. The Samyukta Kisan Morcha — which spearheaded the yearlong 2020-21 agitation — on Sunday called for a countrywide black flag protest against NDA parliamentarians on February 21.

Net curbs

The Union home ministry has extended till February 24 the Internet suspension imposed on several areas of AAP-ruled Punjab in the wake of the farmers’ protest, ministry sources revealed on Sunday.

Punjab chief minister Bhagwant Mann had earlier protested against the Internet suspension to the three Union ministers who are holding talks with the farmers.

The Union ministry had used its special powers under the Telegraph Act of 1885 to suspend Internet services in certain areas of Punjab from February 12 to February 16. This was later extended “in the interest of maintaining public safety and averting public emergency from February 17 to February 24”, a ministry official said.

BJP-ruled Haryana continues to suspend mobile Internet and bulk SMS services in Ambala, Kurukshetra, Kaithal, Jind, Hisar, Fatehabad and Sirsa districts.

Internet services will remain suspended in areas falling under the Shambhu, Julkan, Passian, Patran, Shatrana, Samana, Ghanaur, Devigarh and Balbhera police stations in Patiala; Lalru police station in Mohali; Sangat police station in Bathinda; Killianwali police station in Muktsar; Sardulgarh and Boha police stations in Mansa; Khanauri, Moonak, Lehra, Sunam and Chajli police stations in Sangrur; and areas under the Fatehgarh Sahib police station in Punjab.

Over a dozen accounts of farm leaders on social media sites X and Facebook have been withheld in response to the Centre’s directives, prompting allegations against the government of suppressing the farmers’ voice.

Farmer leaders have accused the government of also suspending the accounts of over 70 YouTubers who were showing the protest.

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