Farmers' Protest Enters 11th Day, As Support For "Bharat Bandh" Grows: 10 Points

Farmer's Protest Updates: Saturday's talks were the third this week and fifth overall, and began after a high-level meet between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and senior cabinet ministers, including Home Minister Amit Shah

Protests over the farm laws have snowballed into the biggest by farmers in several years

New Delhi: As the farmers' protest entered a 11th day today, support for Tuesday's "Bharat bandh" grew steadily, with opposition parties and trade and transport unions backing the shutdown call. On Saturday farmer leaders met union ministers for talks - third this week and fifth since September - but the five-hour discussion broke down on the core issue - repeal of the laws. After the meeting Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar said the centre remains committed to finding a solution but urged farmers to scale down protests outside Delhi - by sending the elderly and children home. A sixth meeting will take place on Wednesday, at which a fresh proposal from the centre will be tabled. Between now and then the farmers will hold a bandh to keep up pressure on the centre.

Here are the top 10 points in this big story:

  1. Tuesday's "Bharat bandh", which farmers say signals their growing disillusionment with talks, has been backed by a number of opposition parties, with the Congress, the DMK, the RJD, the Samajwadi Party, the NCP, the newly-minted People's Alliance for Gupkar Declaration in J&K and a collection of Left outfits issuing a joint statement.

  2. Signed by Sonia Gandhi, Sharad Pawar, MK Stalin, Akhilesh Yadav and Tejashwi Yadav, among others, the statement said: "(we) extend our solidarity with the ongoing massive struggle by Indian farmers... and support their call for a 'Bharat bandh' on December 8, demanding the withdrawal of retrograde agri-laws and the Electricity Amendment Bill".

  3. The Chief Ministers of Delhi (Arvind Kejriwal) and Telangana (K Chandrashekar Rao) have also backed the bandh, while Bengal's ruling Trinamool said it would extend "moral support" to farmers and stage sit-ins in various areas in the state for three days. The Shiromani Akali Dal, which withdrew from the BJP-led NDA after the bills were passed, has also extended support.

  4. Apart from political parties, the bandh has also been backed by a joint forum of trade unions, including the Indian National Trade Union Congress (INTUC), the All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC), and the Hind Mazdoor Sabha (HMS).

  5. The bandh will also see farmers blocking national highways and occupying toll plazas, the Bharatiya Kisan Union's Harwinder Singh Lakhwal told news agency PTI. The farmers have also threatened to cut off road access to the national capital, around which thousands have been camped for nearly two weeks now, if their demands - which include the roll back of an amendment to the Electricity Act - are not met.

  6. Farmer reps and union ministers met Saturday for a third time this week but the talks fell through. Dramatic images from the meeting showed irate farmer leaders mounting a silent protest - they held up placards that said "Yes Or No?". The (unasked) question was "Will the centre scrap the farm laws?" Shortly before they also threatened to walk out over "meaningless" talks and had to be persuaded to return to their seats.

  7. Talks between farmers and the centre have stalled over the demand to roll back, completely, the three farm laws. The centre says these laws give farmers freedom to sell their produce at prices and markets of their choice. Critics of the laws say the farmers will be denied MSP (minimum support price - a guarantee of crop sales and revenue, particularly in difficult times) and be left at the mercy of corporate interests.

  8. After Saturday's meeting Mr Tomar assured farmers MSPs would not be abolished. "There is no threat to this scheme," he said, adding the centre would also not dismantle mandis (wholesale markets). Several senior figures, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, have offered such guarantees, but the farmers insist on a complete recall.

  9. A Delhi resident has approached the Supreme Court asking that farmers around the city be moved because they are blocking emergency medical services. The petition cites a top court order from September that said protesters cannot occupy public places indefinitely. That order was in the context of Shaheen Bagh protests against the Citizenship Act (CAA).

  10. At least three deaths have been recorded during the protests so far. The farmers have told the centre it is "inhuman" - given the cold weather - to drag this out any further. On Thursday Punjab announced financial assistance of Rs 5 lakh each to the families of two of farmers from the state who died during the protests.

With input from ANI, PTI


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