As Stir Continues, 1st Plea Against New Farm Laws Filed in SC by Kerala MP, Captain May Move Court Too

Congress workers protest the farm legislations at India Gate.

Congress workers protest the farm legislations at India Gate.

The Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Committee continued their 'rail roko' agitation in Punjab for the fifth consecutive day and announced that the protest against the three farm bills will be extended till October 2.

reess proEven as farmer unions and Opposition leaders held nationwide protests against the newly enacted agricultural law, the Centre on Monday came out with the latest data of paddy procurement in the last 48 hours, sending across a clear message that it has no intention of scrapping the MSP and that it has put in a mechanism for procurement of not only summer-sown paddy but also pulses and oilseeds this year.

Farmers in Punjab and Haryana and several other states are protesting against new farm laws which they feel will lead to procurement in the hands of corporates and the end of the MSP regime. The Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Committee continued their 'rail roko' agitation in Punjab for the fifth consecutive day and announced that the protest against the three farm bills will be extended till October 2.

"Our protest will continue till October 2. We want to appeal to farmers across the country to take part in protest against Modi government," general secretary of the committee said. The protesters have been squatting on rail tracks since September 24 at Jalandhar, Amritsar, Tanda, Mukerian and Ferozepur.

Stepping up pressure, the Congress along with other opposition parties and farmers' organisations held demonstrations against the new farm laws across the country on Monday, with some protesters torching a tractor at the India Gate in the heart of Lutyens' Delhi.

The Congress invoked Bhagat Singh, whose birth anniversary was being celebrated today, during the protests, and Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh took part in a sit-in at the ancestral village of the freedom fighter. The chief minister said his government would approach the Supreme Court over the farm laws and warned that Pakistan's ISI could exploit the anger over the new legislations to foment trouble in the border state.

Protests were also held in Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Telangana, Gujarat, Goa, Odisha and Tamil Nadu, where the DMK and its allies, including the Congress, hit the streets. DMK chief M K Stalin said his party was ready to challenge the new laws in court.

"We (DMK) as an opposition party are ready to go to court on behalf of farmers and the people," Stalin said, while addressing protesters in Kancheepuram district. Congress MP from Thrissur, Kerala, T N Prathapan moved the Supreme Court on Monday challenging the constitutional validity of various provisions of the Farmers' (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020, one of the three contentious farm laws notified by the government.

MDMK chief Vaiko, Tamil Nadu Congress Committee president K S Alagiri, DMK leaders T R Baalu and Dayanidhi Maran were among those who took part in the protests held at separate locations. Demonstrations were held in Chennai, Coimbatore, Madurai, Tiruchirappalli and Tirunelveli among other places across the state.

Five people claiming to be members of the Punjab Youth Congress were detained after they unloaded a tractor from a truck in the high-security area at Rajpath, a few hundred metres from the President House and the Parliament, in the national capital and set it on fire at around 7 AM. "On #BhagatSingh's birth anniversary Youth Congress set ablaze a tractor in protest against the govt's anti farmer bills," the Indian Youth Congress tweeted.

The BJP lashed out at the Congress over the incident, saying it has "shamed" the country with its "drama" aimed at garnering publicity and "misleading" farmers. BJP general secretary Bhupender Yadav dubbed the Congress as "anti-farmers", saying farmers venerate their farm equipment and will not set tractors on fire.

Nearly 100 Gujarat Congress workers, including state party president Amit Chavda and MLAs Baldevji Thakor and C J Chavda, were detained in Gandhinagar during protests. In Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh Congress Committee (UPCC) president Ajay Kumar Lallu and other party workers were held during the protest.

Hundreds of Congress workers marched in Kolkata carrying haystacks on their shoulders and submitted a memorandum to West Bengal Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar, urging him to "intervene and ensure" that the laws were immediately repealed. The party said similar protests were carried in other states by PCC Presidents, MLAs, MPs, and party office bearers and leaders who marched to the residence of the governors.

The Opposition led by the Congress has alleged that the laws will make the farmers vulnerable to exploitation and will lead to the scrapping of the Minimum Support Price (MSP) system. They are also critical of the manner in which these bills were passed in Parliament.

However, the Centre said that it has already begun procuring paddy from farmers of Haryana and Punjab. "About 5,637 tonnes of paddy at MSP of Rs 1,868 per quintal has been procured from farmers of Haryana and Punjab till September 27. The procurement of paddy for the remaining states commenced from today," the Union Agriculture Ministry said.

Paddy worth Rs 10.53 crore MSP value has been procured from 390 farmers of Haryana and Punjab in the last 48 hours, it said in a statement. Paddy procurement in the ongoing 2020-21 Kharif Marketing Season has just started from September 26. The government has kept a rice procurement target of 495.37 lakh tonnes in the 2020-21 kharif marketing season.

Besides paddy, the government through its nodal agencies has procured 34.20 tonnes of moong worth Rs 25 lakh MSP value from 40 farmers in Tamil Nadu till September 24. Similarly, 5,089 tonnes of copra (the perennial crop) having MSP value of Rs 52.40 crore has been procured, benefitting 3,961 farmers in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu against the sanctioned quantity of 95.75 lakh tonnes for Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala, it said.

The Centre's data was released even as farmers in Haryana's Kurukshetra held demonstrations at various 'mandis' on Monday, alleging delay in paddy procurement due to lack of coordination between the government departments and various agencies.

Farmers at a 'mandi' also locked up the the secretary and other staff of the Market Committee inside the office. They relented after a large police contingent reached the spot to control the situation. Farmers alleged that there was lack of coordination between government departments and procurement agencies leading to the problems in smooth procurement.

Protest in Haryana

Haryana's main opposition Congress held a protest against the agriculture-related new laws outside the party's state headquarters here on Monday, with its leaders claiming these legislations will make 'Atma Nirbhar' farmers "dependent" and leave them at the mercy of big corporates. The Congress workers also raised slogans against the BJP-led governments at the Centre and in Haryana.

Carrying placards, some of which read "Annadata ki suno pukar, bandh karo atyachar (Listen to farmers, end their oppression)", the party workers demanded that the "black laws", which are "anti-farmers", be withdrawn. A separate protest was also held by the Chandigarh unit of the Congress, which led by its president Pradeep Chhabra, took out a tractor rally to protest against the "draconian farm bills".

A delegation comprising Haryana Congress president Kumari Selja, former chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda, party's state affairs incharge Vivek Bansal, other senior leaders including Kiran Choudhary and Capt Ajay Singh Yadav submitted a memorandum on the farm-related laws issue to Governor Satyadeo Narain Arya which was addressed to the President. Earlier, a meeting was held at the Congress' state headquarters here in which senior leaders including Selja, Bansal, Choudhary, Ajay Singh Yadav and others addressed the party workers.

Protest in Odisha

The Odisha unit of the Congress on Monday staged a demonstration near the Raj Bhavan in Bhubaneswar demanding the repeal of the farm bills passed in the Parliament recently. President Ram Nath Kovind had on Sunday given as sent to three farm reform bills — the Farmer's Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020, the Farmers(Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, 2020 and the Essential Commodities(Amendment) Bill, 2020.

The bills were earlier passed in the Parliament, triggering protests by farmers and political parties indifferent parts of the country. As part of the nationwide agitation of the Congress against the farm sector reform measures, a large number of party workers and leaders including former state unit president Jayadev Jena and former MP Pradeep Majhi took part in the demonstration, accusing the Centre of adopting an "anti-farmer policy".

Holding placards and banners, the demonstrators gathered near the Raj Bhavan and raised slogans against the BJP-led government at the Centre, vowing to intensify the agitation to seek withdrawal of the measures. Maintaining that small and marginal farmers have voluntarily associated themselves with the protests, former PCC chief Jayadev Jena said the party will continue the agitation till the Centre withdraws the bills.

Protest in UP

Workers of the Congress and the Pragatisheel Samajwadi Party (Lohia) staged protests against the new farm laws and other issues in Lucknow on Monday. Uttar Pradesh Congress Committee (UPCC) president Ajay Kumar Lallu and other party workers were held during their protest, while police personnel with 'lathis' stopped members of the Pragatisheel Samajwadi Party's students' wing as they tried to march towards the chief minister's residence.

The Shekhar Dixit-led Rashtriya Kisan Manch, meanwhile, said the new farm laws would help "save farmers from the exploitation of middlemen" and slammed the organisations opposing the measures. Led by the UPCC president, Congress workers from all over the state converged at the Parivartan Chowk here and staged a protest against the "anti-farm" laws, the party's media convenor, Lalan Kumar, said.

While trying to move towards the Raj Bhawan, party workers and its chief were held, Kumar said. There are reports from some districts that party workers, who were on their way to Lucknow to take part in the programme, were detained and not allowed to proceed, Lalan claimed.

The workers raised slogans against the new laws, he said. Members of the Pragatisheel Samajwadi Party's students' wing, led by its state unit president Dinesh Singh Yadav, gathered at the party office here to march towards the chief minister's residence to protest against problems faced by students, farmers, traders and common people, a party statement said.

As the workers began their march, police stopped them and took them into custody, it added. Rashtriya Kisan Manch president Shekhar Dixit said the farm laws would benefit the farmers in the country.

Accusing the opposition of "shedding crocodile tears", he said, "The Farmers' Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill would give farmers the freedom to sell their produce anywhere in the country. It would help save farmers from the exploitation of middlemen. It seems that these organisations were waiting for the passage of these bills so that they may again come to limelight through agitation."

Protest in Goa

The Goa Congress on Monday held a protest at Raj Bhavan against the Centre's farm bills whichwere cleared by Parliament recently and got the president'sassent. Senior leaders like LoP Digambar Kamat and state unit chief Girish Chodankar took part in the protest, with theformer stating that the Centre must withdraw them as they areanti-farmer.

Chodankar said the legislations would help "crony capitalist" friends of the Narendra Modi government. The prime minister wants to save Rs 1 lakh crore that would have to be given as MSP to procure produce from farmers, he alleged.

Protest in Punjab

Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Monday said his government would approach the Supreme Court against the new farm laws and warned that Pakistan's ISI could exploit farmers' anger in the entire nation. The CM said he did not want Punjab's farmers and the youth to take up arms but the laws will endanger the border state's security as the Pakistani agency is always on the lookout for such opportunities.

In an apparent reference to the Khalistani terrorism during the 1980s and early 90s, Singh said Punjab has lost 35,000 lives in senseless violence in the past and with the unrest among the farmers spreading to other states, the entire nation would be exposed to the ISI threat. Singh led a dharna against the recently passed agri-marketing bills at SBS Nagar district's Khatkar Kalan, the ancestral village of Bhagat Singh.

The chief minister, All India Congress Committee (AICC) general secretary Harish Rawat and Punjab Congress chief Sunil Jakhar paid tributes there to the freedom fighter on his 113th birth anniversary. "I have said we will take this matter forward. The President has passed these bills and now we will take this matter to the Supreme Court," Singh told the gathering at the village.

He said he will consult lawyers to work out the course of action for challenging the unconstitutional laws in the Supreme Court. The matter will be discussed with two advocates who are coming from Delhi on Tuesday, he said.

Meeting reporters in Khatkar Kalan and Chandigarh, the CM said Pakistan's Inter- Services Intelligence could use the farmers' unrest over the new laws to foment trouble in the state. The ISI always looks to whom and where it can give guns, bombs and grenades. During the last three and half years of our term, we have arrested around 150 terrorists and seized about 700 weapons, he said in Bhagat Singh's village.

"There has been peace in Punjab but when you try to take away someone's food, won't he be angry? He becomes a target of the ISI. That is why I am saying whatever they have done is anti-national, he said, referring to the BJP-led government at the Centre. In Chandigarh, he told reporters that the entire nation could be exposed to the ISI threat. He added that he will not let anyone disturb the state's peaceful atmosphere, which the new legislation had the potential to do.

Farmers in Punjab have been protesting against the new laws meant to deregulate the sale of their crops, with their unions saying that they will actually lead to the dismantling of the minimum support price (MSP) system. At Khatkar Kalan, the CM also accused the central government of snatching the rights of the states.

He expressed hope that Congress leader Rahul Gandhi would join protests against the new laws. President Ram Nath Kovind on Sunday gave assent to the three contentious bills -- the Farmers' Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020, the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, 2020 and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill, 2020.

This was former Uttarakhand chief minister Harish Rawat's first visit to Punjab after being given the charge of the state at the AICC.

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