Rakesh Tikait reiterates threat to escalate farmer protests

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Farmer leader Rakesh Tikait on Monday reiterated his threat to escalate protests against the three farm laws enacted last year, a day after he threatened to turn all government offices into grain markets if authorities dismantled their protest sites.

“The central government has time till November 26. On November 27, farmers will reach the protest sites in Delhi on tractors and strengthen their fortifications,” Tikait tweeted in Hindi on Monday.

Tikait, who has been at the forefront of the year-long agitation against the laws, earlier on Sunday tweeted his new protest plan. He later spoke to farmers at one of the farmer protest sites on Delhi borders in Ghazipur and asked them to be prepared.

“If farmers are forcibly removed from the borders, then they will turn government offices in the country into grain markets,” Rakesh Tikait said in his tweet on Sunday.

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Thousands of farmers have since November last year pitched tents at Singhu, Ghaziabad, Tikri, Dhansa and Shahjahanpur for their protests against the laws.

Tikait’s warnings have come days after the Delhi Police on October 29 started removing barricades and concrete barriers put up at the Gazipur and Tikri protest sites.

The Supreme Court on October 21 said farmers have the right to protest but roads should not be blocked indefinitely. The observation came in response to a plea against the blockade of roads between Delhi and Noida due to farmers’ protests.

Farmers have continued their sit-ins demanding the scrapping of the laws enacted to liberalise agricultural trade. The government has maintained the laws were necessary to boost the farm sector, which employs half of all Indians. Major farm unions have said the laws will leave cultivators at the mercy of big private companies.

There has been no point of agreement between the government and the farmers despite 11 rounds of talks. The talks were last held on January 22 when the government offered to freeze the laws for 18 months. The farmers rejected the proposal.

The laws seek to ease restrictions on trade in farm produce. They provide for setting up free markets, which will co-exist with regulated markets, and allow traders to stockpile large stocks of food for future sales. The laws lay down a national framework for contract farming based on written agreements. Farm unions say free markets under the laws will erode their bargaining power, weaken a system of assured prices, and make them vulnerable to exploitation.

The government has maintained the laws would not impact the current system of assured prices for cereals farmers are offered in government-run markets.

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