New Delhi: Protesting farmers Wednesday announced a four-hour nationwide rail blockade on February 18, 2021 as they renewed their strategy to intensify their agitation, which also included a candle march on February 14, 2021 in the memory of those killed in the 2019 Pulwama terrorist attack.
In a statement, the Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM), which is spearheading the protest, also said toll collection will not be allowed in Rajasthan from February 12, 2021 as part of their week-long protest strategy.
The SKM said in the statement that in a meeting on Wednesday farmer unions decided to escalate their agitation. “There will be a ‘rail roko‘ programme across the country from 12 pm to 4 pm on February 18,” the SKM said.
Earlier this month, the protesting farmers had observed a three-hour road blockade to press their demand of repealing the three farm laws.
SKM leader Darshan Pal said candle marches, ‘Mashaal Juloos’ (torch marches) and other programmes will be held across the country on February 14, 2021 in respect of the sacrifices of the 40 CRPF personnel who were killed in a terrorist attack in Jammu and Kashmir’s Pulwama on February 14, 2019.
He said the farmers will also hold events in a show of solidarity on the birth anniversary of Sir Chhotu Ram, one of the most prominent pre-partition farmer leaders, on February 16, 2021.
The announcements by the protesting unions come on a day Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that the government and parliament have great respect for farmers who are voicing their views on the three farm laws. The prime minister made it clear that those who want to continue with the old agriculture marketing system can continue doing so.
Replying in Lok Sabha to the discussion on the Motion of Thanks to the President’s address to the joint sitting of parliament, Modi staunchly defended the three contentious farms laws and attacked the opposition for “misleading” farmers, saying those who are disrupting the house are doing so as per a “well-planned strategy” as they are unable to digest that people can see the truth. “Through their games, the trust of the people can never be won,” he said, amidst protests by the opposition members.
Thousands of farmers, mostly from Punjab, Haryana and western Uttar Pradesh, have been camping at three Delhi border points – Singhu, Tikri and Ghazipur – for over 75 days, demanding a complete repeal of the three farm laws and a legal guarantee on Minimum Support Price (MSP) for their crops.
Earlier in the day, Bharatiya Kisan Union leader Rakesh Tikait asserted that the agitating farmers were not aiming at any change in power at the Centre but a solution to their problems as he said many of their leaders will tour different parts of the country to spread the movement.
Addressing the protesting farmers at Singhu border, Tikait said that the agitation against the farm laws will stretch till the Centre addresses their issues. “We do not aim change in power [at the Centre]. The government should do its work. We want it to repeal the farm laws and ensure a law on MSP,” he said.
The protesting farmer unions have been alleging the laws will weaken the MSP mechanism and end the mandi system. But the government says the new legislations offer more options to farmers to sell their crops and will help raise their incomes.