Farmers at the Kisan Mahapanchayat in Uttar Pradesh’ Muzaffarnagar Sunday | Photo: Nirmal Poddar/ThePrint
Farmers at the Kisan Mahapanchayat in Uttar Pradesh’ Muzaffarnagar Sunday | Representational Image| Photo: Nirmal Poddar/ThePrint
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Muzaffarnagar: Farm leaders gathered at the Kisan Mahapanchayat, held by Samyukt Kisan Morcha (SKM) in Uttar Pradesh’ Muzaffarnagar, Sunday declared that they will escalate their protests against the Modi government’s three controversial farm laws. 

While the SKM had earlier announced that the event will mark the onset of its “Mission UP”, it was decided at the mahapanchayat that the movement will protest across the country with various events in the future such as another mahapanchayat in Karnal on 7 September, a grand meeting of farmers groups in Lucknow on 9-10 September, Kisan Sansad in Jaipur on 15 September and a Bharat Bandh on 27 September. 

Local farm leader and spokesperson of the Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU), Rakesh Tikait, while addressing the mahapanchayat, said the protesters will remain at the borders of Delhi.  

“We take a pledge that we will not leave the protest site even if our graveyard is made there. We will lay down our lives if needed, but will not leave the protest site until we emerge victorious,” Tikait said. “If the government of India invites us for talks, we will talk to them. But the farmers’ agitation will continue until the government fulfills our demands. Until the return of agricultural laws, there will be no homecoming.”

He added that the mahapanchayat wasn’t just about farmers. “The purpose of this rally is to save farmers, youth, and labour of the country from getting sold,” he said. “The government is selling our farmlands, highways, electricity, LIC and banks, and FCI godowns and ports.”

But for those who turned up, the focus was on the three farm laws. 

“All we want from the Modi and Yogi government is to withdraw these black farm laws so that we continue our agriculture in peace. These three farm laws will have to be withdrawn by the government at any cost,” Shiv Shankar Pandey, a farmer from Basti, Uttar Pradesh, told ThePrint. 

Another farmer from Sikar in Rajasthan, Bharat Singh Jakhar, told ThePrint, “While the MSP of Bajra in a poor state is Rs 22/kg, it is procured from farmers at Rs 12/kg. The same bajra is then sold to customers at Rs 65/kg. If these three agriculture laws are not withdrawn and MSP is not guaranteed to farmers, we will hold such rallies in India and ensure the defeat of BJP in every state election like we did in recent panchayat polls in Rajasthan.”


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Western UP farmers dominate mahapanchayat

The mahapanchayat in Muzaffarnagar was largely dominated by farmers from the sugarcane belt of western Uttar Pradesh who were visibly upset with stagnation in sugarcane prices in the state. 

The farmers were also angry with the fact that while their input cost such as fuel and fertilizer prices have increased massively in the last couple of years, the prices of sugarcane produce has remained the same, leading to falling income and return with each year. 

Imran Chauhan, a sugarcane farmer from Baghpat, said, “ Our payment is pending for a year. The one that also comes is in installment, which is not enough to meet the requirements of my children and relatives.” 

“With the prices of sugarcane remaining stagnant for a couple of years now, input costs have increased by at least 2-3 times,” Chauhan added. “Look at how much the price of mustard oil tin has increased this year. All expenses like diesel and electricity prices are increasing every year but the government doesn’t care about us and is not increasing the cane prices.” 

The farmers from the sugarcane belt also demand that they be provided with incentives on par with sugarcane farmers of neighboring states such as free electricity and higher state sugarcane prices in Haryana. 

Rajinder Singh from Atalpur, Meerut, in Uttar Pradesh, said, “We want our Yogi government to increase the price of sugarcane like the state government of Punjab that recently hiked it to Rs 360/quintal. The farmers in Punjab and Haryana are also getting free electricity for agriculture. We also want the same.”

“The prices of fuel like diesel and gas cylinders should also be reduced by the government as we don’t get payments on time,” Singh added. “How can we manage to pay daily increasing prices of such items? The government should withdraw the increase in prices of such items along with three black farm laws.” 

The State Advisory Price (SAP) of sugarcane in Uttar Pradesh, which cane farmers receive in the state for their produce, has been unchanged for three consecutive years now. The SAP was last increased in 2017-18 shortly after the BJP government came to power in the state. 

The sugarcane SAP in UP for three different varieties stands at  Rs 315/quintal for common variety, Rs 325/quintal for early variety, and Rs 310/quintal for rejected varieties.

Second such mahapanchayat

This is the second Kisan Mahapanchayat held in Muzaffarnagar; the first was held seven months ago. 

The previous kisan mahapanchayat in Muzaffarnagar, the home district of farm leader Rakesh Tikait, was held on 29 January. That event marked an overnight U-turn in support of the farm protest at the Delhi border, which was waning out after the Republic Day fiasco.

In the previous mahapanchayat in Muzaffarnagar, farm leader Naresh Tikait had admitted that it was “their mistake” to support BJP candidate, Union Minister Sanjiv Balyan, against RLD chief Ajit Singh in the last Lok Sabha elections. 

With the kisan mahapanchayat in Muzaffarpur Sunday, SKM tried to breathe a new life in the ongoing farm protest across the country which has waned out in the last few days. Under the new strategy decided in the mahapanchayat, fresh efforts have been made to push farmer issues keeping in mind upcoming state elections in various states including Uttar Pradesh which has given a fresh impetus to the movement.

(Edited by Arun Prashanth)


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