This Article is From Dec 22, 2021

In Pics: After Long Protest, 2021 Ends On Victorious Note For Farmers

On December 11, thousands of farmers began their journey home after dismantling their makeshift accommodations at protest sites on the borders of Delhi

In Pics: After Long Protest, 2021 Ends On Victorious Note For Farmers

Farmers return home from Delhi's borders after a year of protest against three farm laws

New Delhi:

The year 2021 ends on a victorious note for farmers in India. Three new farm laws brought by the centre amid the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 under controversial political circumstances led farmers, especially from Haryana, Punjab and Uttar Pradesh, to mobilise for a long protest in and around the National Capital Region, or NCR.

A year later, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the government would cancel the laws and within no time withdrew the laws.


Farmers started turning up at Delhi's borders from November 2020 (File)

Here's a look back on the farmers' protest as 2021 comes to an end:

3 new farm laws are passed

In September 2020, President Ram Nath Kovind signed the three farm bills into law. The government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi called them historic reforms in the agriculture sector, which would help farmers  get better prices for produce. The farm laws were - Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Act; Farmers Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, and Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act.


The farmers wanted nothing less than complete withdrawal of the three farm laws (File)

Political fallout

The three controversial farm laws cost the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) its alliance with the Shiromani Akali Dal. The opposition had alleged that the bills were pushed through voice vote in parliament in violation of rules.


Farmers beat utensils during a protest against the agricultural reforms in Ghazipur (File)

What the laws promised

The laws would have helped farmers increase their income and free them from the interference of middlemen, the government had said. Bypassing wholesale markers, the new laws enabled farmers to deal directly with big companies for the sale of produce and even allow pre-harvest contracts.


Traffic remained blocked on highways leading to Delhi. They were diverted to narrow service roads. (File)

The Farmers Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act allowed barrier-free intra- and inter-state trade of farm produce. Previously, farm produce was sold at notified wholesale markets, or mandis, run by Agricultural Produce Marketing Committees (APMCs). Each APMC, of which there are around 7,000, had licensed middlemen who would buy from farmers - at prices set by auction - before selling to institutional buyers like retailers and big traders.


Farmers clashed with the police in the early days of the protest, before they dug in around Delhi's borders

First sign of resistance by farmers

Under the proposed system, farmers could bypass middlemen and sell directly to institutional buyers at prices to be agreed between them. However, farmers' groups were worried this exposes them to companies that have more bargaining power and resources than small or marginal farmers.


Tractors lined up at Ghazipur border during the farmers protest (File)

In India, nearly 85 per cent of poor farmers own less than two hectares of land. Farmers like these find it difficult to negotiate directly with large-scale buyers. Farmer leaders have said mandis play a crucial role in ensuring timely payments. Removing these markets, or allowing companies direct access without offering an alternative, such as regulated direct-purchase centres, does not make sense, they have said.

Farmers occupy highways in and around Delhi

Within weeks after the three farm bills were made into laws, farmers from Punjab, Haryana and UP started arriving on highways near the border with Delhi. They dug in and set up tents, clearly indicating they would be there for the long haul.


Security personnel stand near barricades at Ghazipur border in Delhi (File)

Initially, the police tried to turn them back, but did not succeed despite several attempts. In order to stop more farmers from arriving, the police set up concrete barricades on the highways, effectively closing the main routes between Delhi and neighbouring cities. Traffic was diverted to smaller service roads.

Violence on Republic Day 2021

The farmers after negotiations with the Delhi Police were allowed to hold a tractor rally on January 26, Republic Day, on the condition that they will not enter areas not allowed by the police. The police had said the decision to allow the rally was given only as a respect for the farmers' demand. The rally started after the day's traditional big parade on Rajpath in central Delhi, which ended at the Red Fort close to noon.


A tractor rally by farmers on Republic Day 2021 turned violent at the Red Fort (File)

But the national capital saw unprecedented scenes of chaos and violence - on the nation's 72nd Republic Day - as groups of farmers clashed with police and security forces during what was supposed to be a peaceful tractor rally around the city's borders. A dozen police and paramilitary personnel were seen forced to scramble and jump over a 15-foot wall at the Red Fort complex to escape a mob of lathi-wielding attackers.


The Delhi Police had agreed to allow the tractor rally only on designated routes (File)

Government's climb-down on farm laws

On November 19, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that the three controversial farm laws will be withdrawn. The announcement came just months before elections in states like Uttar Pradesh and Punjab. "While apologising to the nation, I want to say with a sincere and pure heart that maybe something was lacking in our tapasya (dedication) that we could not explain the truth, as clear as the light of the diya, to some of our farmer brothers. But today is Prakash Parv, not the time to blame anyone. Today, I want to tell the country that we have decided to repeal the three farm laws," PM Modi said in an address to the nation.


Farmers celebrate after the centre cancelled the three farm laws

Farmers return home

On December 11, thousands of farmers began their journey home after dismantling their makeshift accommodations at protest sites on the borders of Delhi. They were seen dancing, waving green and white flags as they rode tractors and jeeps, going back from the capital's outskirts where they have camped since November 2020.


Farmer pack up and dismantle structures that they had set up during the year-long protest (File)

As their herculean struggle came to an end, the farmers said they were happy and relieved to return home.