« Back to articlePrint this article

'If he is a strong PM then...': Farmer leader challenges Modi

February 20, 2024 16:27 IST

Farmer leader Sarwan Singh Pandher on Tuesday sought that the Centre accept their demands, including a legal guarantee on the minimum support price (MSP) for crops and farm loan waiver, and said they will head to Delhi on Wednesday.

IMAGE: Punjab Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Committee General Secretary Sarwan Singh Pandher addresses a press conference at the Shambhu border . Photograph: ANI

His statement came a day after the farmer leaders taking part in the "Delhi Chalo" agitation rejected the Centre's proposal for procuring pulses, maize and cotton at the MSP by government agencies for five years, saying it was not in favour of farmers.

In the fourth round of talks with the farmer leaders on Sunday, a panel of three Union ministers proposed that government agencies would buy pulses, maize and cotton at the MSP for five years after entering into an agreement with farmers.

The Samyukta Kisan Morcha (Non-Political) and the Kisan Mazdoor Morcha are spearheading the "Delhi Chalo" march.


Talking to reporters at the Shambhu border point between Punjab and Haryana on Tuesday, Pandher, who represents the Kisan Mazdoor Morcha, said the farmers have three big demands -- a legal guarantee on the MSP for all crops, the implementation of the "C2 plus 50 per cent" formula as recommended by the Swaminathan Commission and loan waiver.

Replying to a question, Pandher said at the meeting with the Union ministers, the farmers proposed that a law on the MSP be enacted by convening a special session of Parliament.

On the issue of loan waiver, he said according to government reports, farmers have a total debt to the tune of Rs 18.5 lakh crore.

He requested Prime Minister Narendra Modi to make an announcement that the farm loans would be waived, while a mechanism for the same could be worked out later.

"The BJP claims that the present prime minister is a strong prime minister. If he makes an announcement on waiving the debt of 80 crore farmers and farm labourers, it will stamp the BJP's claim that he really is a strong prime minister," Pandher said.

He asked the Union ministers to give their response to the various demands of the farmers.

Replying to a question on the "Delhi Chalo" march, the farmer leader said "our announcement (of going to Delhi on Wednesday) stands".

To another question, he said no demand of the farmers has been accepted by the Centre.

On the issue of death of two farmers during the ongoing protest, Pandher said the Punjab government should announce a policy in this regard and sought compensation and jobs for one of the family members of the deceased.

A 72-year-old farmer, who was part of the protest at the Khanauri border point, died of cardiac arrest on Sunday. Earlier, a 63-year-old farmer died of a heart attack at the Shambhu border.

On the issue of internet suspension in certain areas of Punjab, Pandher said the state government should make its stand clear on this.

Ashok Bulara, another farmer leader, said the government should frame a law on the MSP, waive farm loans and give rates in accordance with the "C2 plus 50 per cent" formula recommended by the Swaminathan Commission.

"Either accept our demands or we should be allowed to move towards Delhi for a peaceful protest," he said.

On Monday evening, SKM (Non-Political) leader Jagjit Singh Dallewal had said, "After holding discussions on two of our forums, it has been decided that the Centre's proposal is not in the interest of farmers and we reject it."

Asked if their call for a march to Delhi still stands, Pandher had said, "We will move to Delhi peacefully at 11 am on February 21."

The protesting farmers have been staying put at the Shambhu and Khanauri border points between Punjab and Haryana, after their "Delhi Chalo" march to press the BJP-led Centre for various demands, including a legal guarantee on the MSP for crops, was stopped by security forces.

They began their march on February 13 but were stopped by the security forces, which led to clashes at the Shambhu and Khanauri border points.

Besides a legal guarantee on the MSP, the farmers are demanding the implementation of the Swaminathan Commission's recommendations, pension for farmers and farm labourers, farm loan waiver, no hike in the electricity tariff, a withdrawal of police cases and "justice" for the victims of the 2021 Lakhimpur Kheri violence in Uttar Pradesh, reinstatement of the Land Acquisition Act, 2013 and compensation to the families of the farmers who died during a previous agitation in 2020-21.

© Copyright 2024 PTI. All rights reserved. Republication or redistribution of PTI content, including by framing or similar means, is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent.