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Bharat bandh today: What protesting farmers want

Feb 16, 2024 12:58 PM IST

Bharat bandh today: Farmers are seeking guaranteed crop prices, renewing a movement that succeeded in getting three laws repealed in 2021.

Gramin Bharat Bandh today: Tens of thousands of farmers across the country are protesting for guaranteed crop prices, renewing a movement that succeeded in getting the Centre's three contentious agricultural laws repealed in 2021. The Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU), which is part of the Samyukt Kisan Morcha (SKM), has called for a Gramin Bharat Bandh on Friday, February 16, citing a host of unmet demands of farmers.

Members of the farm union Bharatiya Kisan Union (Ekta Ugrahan) block railway tracks during a protest to demand minimum crop prices at a railway station in Rajpura. (AFP)
Members of the farm union Bharatiya Kisan Union (Ekta Ugrahan) block railway tracks during a protest to demand minimum crop prices at a railway station in Rajpura. (AFP)

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BKU leader Pawan Khatana said during the "Bharat bandh" called by his union, farmers had been asked to suspend work for a day to press the government for demands. "Farmers have been asked to shun work in farms, or not to go to markets for any purchases. Traders and transporters have also been exhorted to join the strike," Pawan Khatana said.

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Bharat bandh: Why are farmers protesting?

The farmers, who rode on tractors and trucks from Haryana and Punjab, said the Centre has failed to meet some of their key demands from the previous protests. In 2021, Prime Minister Narendra Modi repealed a set of agricultural laws that the protesting farmers said would hurt their incomes.

But farmers' unions now claimed that the government hasn’t made progress on other important demands such as guaranteed crop prices, a doubling of farmers’ income and loan waivers. The demand for legislation that will guarantee minimum prices is at the heart of their protests.

What are the demands?

  • The farmers are demanding legal guarantees of a minimum support price or MSP, which acts as a safety net for the farming community. The farmers argue that by making MSP a legal guarantee, margins for the farmers can be protected.
  • Along with this demand, farmers also ask for the withdrawal of cases registered during the last agitation in 2020-21.
  • Their list of demands also include pensions for farmers, loan waivers and withdrawal from world trade organisation.
  • The farmers also want the government to honour a promise to double their incomes, complaining that costs of cultivation have jumped over the past few years while incomes have stagnated, making farming a loss-making enterprise.
  • The farmers also insist that the government ensure at least 50 per cent profit over their overall cost of production.

Farmers' protest: What happened in 2021?

In November 2021, the government's announcement that the controversial laws would be repealed was widely seen as a victory for the farmers.

The government had defended the three farms laws as necessary reforms to modernise Indian farming, but farmers feared the government’s move to introduce market reforms in agriculture would leave them poorer.

The protests, which began in northern India, triggered nationwide demonstrations and drew international support. Dozens of farmers died due to suicides, bad weather and Covid-19.

In 2021, when the Modi government repealed the farm laws, the government said it would set up a panel of growers and government officials to find ways to ensure support prices for all produce. Farmers accuse the government of going slow in fulfilling that promise.

(With inputs from agencies)

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