Farmers Escalate Protests, Centre Holds Talks in Chandigarh

New Delhi: The Centre held the fourth round of talks with the leaders of protesting farmers’ unions in Chandigarh on Sunday. Meanwhile, in a bid to mount pressure on the BJP-ruled Centre to accept their demands, the Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM) announced that from Tuesday it will protest outside the residences of BJP leaders in Punjab.

Union agriculture minister Arjun Munda, commerce minister Piyush Goyal and minister of state for home affairs Nityanand Rai represented the Centre during the talks with the farmers’ unions. Punjab chief minister Bhagwant Mann was also present at the meeting. Representing the protesting farmers, SKM (Non-Political) leader Jagjit Singh Dallewal and Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Committee general secretary Sarwan Singh Pandher, among others, attended the meeting.

The talks between the ministers and farmers started around 8.30 pm on Sunday and continued till late at night. This was the fourth round of talks between the two sides. The three previous rounds of dialogue on February 8, 12 and 15 remained inconclusive.

Meaning upping the ante ahead of the fourth round of meetings, SKM leader Balbir Singh Rajewal said that they will stage protests in front of the residences of Punjab BJP leaders, including MPs, MLAs and district presidents, from Tuesday until Thursday. He also threatened that the farmers will also hold protests at all toll barriers in the state and make them free for all commuters from February 20 to 22.

The SKM leader said that the union will hold a high-level meeting on February 22 in Delhi to chalk out their future strategy and reiterated that they will not accept anything less than the formula for minimum support price (MSP) as recommended in the Swaminathan Commission report. Ahead of the talks with the Union ministers, Mr Dallewal stated that the Centre should not dilly-dally and find a solution to farmers’s demands before the model code of conduct (MCC) comes into force. He asserted that their struggle will continue even if MCC is imposed.

Denying charges that the farmer’s protest is politically motivated, while speaking to the media at the Shambhu border, Mr Dallewal stressed that the agitation has not been sponsored by any political party. While BKU (Ekta Ugrahan) continued to hold protests for the second day at toll plazas in Punjab, forcing the toll authorities not to charge commuters, BKU (Charuni) in Haryana, held a “panchayat” following which it was decided that all the farmers will be consolidated to have a united protest.
Meanwhile, the ban on Internet services and bulk SMS in several areas of Punjab and Haryana has been extended till February 24 and February 19 respectively.

The protesting farmers have stayed put at Shambhu and Khanauri borders of Punjab-Haryana for the sixth day, though no fresh confrontations took place between them and the security forces, who stood guard at the fortified borders. The farmer leaders have asked the protesters to maintain calm at the borders. In Delhi, the situation remained calm even though the police are on high alert and security remains tight. The two border points between Delhi and Haryana remained closed for traffic with a heavy deployment of security personnel. Traffic movement is allowed at the Ghazipur border with Uttar Pradesh.

( Source : Deccan Chronicle )
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