Union ministers hold talks with farmers, tractor-trolleys from Punjab move towards Delhi

Ministers including food and consumer affairs minister Piyush Goyal and agriculture minister Arjun Munda, were holding the second round of talks with the farmer leaders in Chandigarh.
Road blocks being placed at Singhu Border ahead of the scheduled 'Delhi Chalo' march by the protesting farmers in New Delhi.
Road blocks being placed at Singhu Border ahead of the scheduled 'Delhi Chalo' march by the protesting farmers in New Delhi.

Chandigarh/New Delhi | A team of Union ministers on Monday evening held talks in Chandigarh with farmer leaders to dissuade them from their 'Delhi Chalo' march, even as tractor-trolleys set out from different parts of Punjab earlier in the day to join the protest.

In Delhi, massive deployment of police and paramilitary personnel besides multi-layered barricading have been made to seal the national capital borders at Singhu, Tikri and Ghazipur to prevent the protesting farmers from entering the city on Tuesday.

The Samyukta Kisan Morcha (Non-Political) and the Kisan Mazdoor Morcha have announced that more than 200 farmer unions would head to Delhi to press the Centre to accept their demands, including the enactment of a law to guarantee a minimum support price (MSP) for crops.

The Union ministers, including Food and Consumer Affairs Minister Piyush Goyal and Agriculture Minister Arjun Munda, were holding the second round of talks with the farmer leaders at the Mahatma Gandhi State Institute of Public Administration in Sector 26 in Chandigarh.

SKM (Non-Political) leader Jagjit Singh Dallewal and Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Committee general secretary Sarwan Singh Pandher, among others, were part of the meeting, which were continuing till late evening.

The first meeting with the Union ministers was held on February 8 in which detailed discussions with the leaders of farmer organisations took place.

Earlier in the day, tractor-trolleys in large numbers set out from different parts of Punjab to join the planned farmers' march towards Delhi.

Earlier, the farmer leaders, who were participating in the talks in Chandigarh, held a meeting in Amb Sahib in Punjab's Mohali before leaving for the city.

Authorities in Haryana have fortified the state's borders with Punjab at many places in Ambala, Jind, Fatehabad, Kurukshetra and Sirsa using concrete blocks, iron nails and barbed wire to scuttle the proposed march.

The Haryana government has also imposed restrictions under Section 144 of the CrPC in as many as 15 districts, prohibiting the assembly of five or more people and banning any kind of demonstration or march with tractor-trolleys.

Besides a legal guarantee for MSP, farmers are also demanding implementation of the Swaminathan Commission's recommendations, pensions for farmers and farm labourers, farm debt waiver, withdrawal of police cases and "justice" for victims of the Lakhimpur Kheri violence, reinstatement of the Land Acquisition Act, 2013, withdrawal from the World Trade Organisation, and compensation for families of farmers who died during the previous 2020 agitation, among others.

Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Committee general secretary Sarwan Singh Pandher said a convoy of tractor-trolleys set out in the morning from Beas in Amritsar to assemble in Fatehgarh Sahib district.

Many farmers from Moga, Bathinda and Jalandhar districts have also started from their villages to join the march.

SKM (Non-Political) leader Dallewal said tractor-trolleys will assemble at Fatehgarh Sahib district and Mehlan Chowk in Sangrur on Monday evening.

In the national capital, traffic restrictions have been put in place and security arrangements intensified at the Singhu, Ghazipur and Tikri borders ahead of the march to prevent vehicles carrying protesters from entering the city.

The police are also using drones to keep a tight vigil at border points, an official said, adding that they are fully prepared to deal with any law and order situation.

Multiple layers of barricades with concertina wires, nails and huge concrete blocks and containers have been placed along the entry points to the national capital.

With traffic restrictions and security measures in place, the motorists had a hard time commuting between Delhi and NCR towns.

The Haryana Police and the Chandigarh Police have already issued traffic advisories, asking commuters to take alternative routes.

Ahead of the meeting with Union ministers, farmers' leader Dallewal alleged that many agriculturists, who were coming from other states, including Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh, to support the 'Delhi Chalo' march, have been detained, and sought their release.

Dallewal claimed that several farmers coming from Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka, owing allegiance to the SKM, have been detained in Bhopal.

"On one side, they (the Centre) are holding dialogues with us and on the other hand they are detaining our people. Then how will this dialogue take place?" the SKM (Non-Political) leader said.

On the heavy security arrangements at various points of the Haryana-Punjab border, Dallewal said the government's "nervousness" is visible.

"These are not our demands, these are the government's commitments," he said.

Meanwhile, a petition was filed in the Punjab and Haryana High Court against the sealing of borders and suspension of mobile internet services by the Haryana government in the wake of farmer outfits calling for a protest march to Delhi on February 13.

The petitioner, Uday Partap Singh, sought directions from the court to stay all "obstructive" actions by the governments of Haryana and Punjab and the Centre against the farmers' protest, alleging that they infringe on the fundamental rights and are "unconstitutional".

The matter is expected to come up for a hearing on Tuesday.

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