As farmers from Punjab led by the state's Youth Congress unit attempted to break the barricades on Ambala-Mohali highway near the Punjab-Haryana border this afternoon amid protests against controversial farm bills, which cleared parliament today, police resorted to use of force and water cannons in an attempt to disperse them.
Farmers in Punjab and Haryana have been protesting against the new legislations ever since the bills cleared Lok Sabha earlier this week.
The Haryana government today intensified security arrangements after several farmer bodies across the state gave the protest call, stressing that they will block the highways for three hours -between 12 PM and 3 PM - as a part of "Road Roko (block the road)" protest. Delhi Police was also on alert amid the protests in neighbouring states.
Visuals showed protesters filling up the streets as many of them participated in rallies on their tractors. Many of them, wearing white Kurta pyajamas and chanting slogans against the new bills, were seen with flags and banners. The three-hour long protest by farmers in Haryana ended after they lifted the blockade from all national and state highways.
The state police had made arrangements to contain the situation. "We have planned traffic diversions. Whoever is coming from Delhi, Kurushketra, we have diversion plans for them. We have sufficient security force from headquarters. Most of the personnel have been deployed in Ambala because they plan to go to Delhi from here," senior police officer Abhishek Jorwal from Ambala told news agency ANI earlier in the day.
Three bills - Farmers' and Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020 and Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, 2020 - were passed by the Lok Sabha earlier this week with a voice vote. Two of these crucial farm bills cleared Rajya Sabha this afternoon.
The government says the proposed laws are meant to help small and marginal farmers. However, the bills have triggered massive protests in agriculture-dependent states where farmers fear loss of livelihood.
The Farmers' Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020 permits the electronic trading of farmers' produce and allows the setting up transaction platforms for facilitating direct online buying and selling of farm products.
The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill seeks to develop a national framework for farming agreements to empower farmers through networking with agribusiness firms, exporters and retailers, according to the government.
However, the bills have stirred protests because farmers fear they will no longer get paid at the Minimum Support Price or MSP and commission agents fear they will be hit. Opposition parties say the bills are "anti-farmer" as the agriculture sector will be left to the fate of corporate interests.
"These news laws imposed by the government... we are protesting against them. It will be a huge injustice if farmers won't be given a choice about how to sell their produce," a farmer told ANI today.
Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar this morning said in Rajya Sabha: "I want to assure everyone that the bills have nothing to do with MSPs. MSPs were there and will continue. I would request everyone to reconsider their views on the farm bills. The two bills are historic and will bring a change in the lives of the farmers. The farmers will be able to freely trade their produce anywhere in the country."
On Friday, Prime Minister Modi had hit out at a "misinformation" campaign by the opposition over the MSP.
Today, he tweeted: "A watershed moment in the history of Indian agriculture! Congratulations to our hardworking farmers on the passage of key bills in Parliament, which will ensure a complete transformation of the agriculture sector as well as empower crores of farmers."