Farmers protesting against the three new farm laws are calling for the continuation of colonial rule, International Monetary Fund (IMF) Executive Director representing India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Bhutan, Surjit Bhalla, said on Saturday.
Speaking to News18, he alleged the role of political opposition in the protests. “It is clear that the political opposition is out in force. The rich farmers of Punjab and Haryana feel that their unfair rich days are over… Several economists that have come out in support of reforms. Maybe the protests have something to do with politics,” he said.
“Supporting rich farmers amounts to perpetuation of colonial rule. Reformed law allows farmers to sell outside mandis… Most rich farmers are based out of Punjab and Haryana. Around 6% farmers account for 60% of wheat procurement. Rich farmers are protesting to retain APMC largesse,” he added.
Agitating farmers, meanwhile, scaled up their protests on Saturday, picketing highway toll plazas in Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan. Hundreds of security personnel were deployed at border points on highways linking Delhi following the announcement by agitating farmers to block the Jaipur-Delhi and the Delhi-Agra Expressways on Saturday.
While both the Centre and farmer unions have said that they are open to talks after the cancellation of the meeting on December 9, there were voices of mutual recrimination as the farmers' protest continued on the 17th day with no sign of end to the deadlock.
Union Minister Som Prakash, who is negotiating with protesting farmers, said efforts are being made to call an early meeting with farmer leaders to end the stalemate. The two sides have had five rounds of talks. The farmers have rejected a government offer to amend the farm laws and give a "written assurance" on continuing the MSP system.
Sticking to their demand for the repeal of the law, the farmer leaders said they will sit on a hunger strike on December 14, when they have called for a nationwide protest, and accused the government of trying to divide them. Their statement came as Union Minister Piyush Goyal and some other BJP leaders said the agitation no longer remains a farmers' movement as it has been "infiltrated by Leftist and Maoist elements" demanding the release of those put behind bars for "anti-national activities".
Haryana Deputy Chief Minister Dushyant Chautala, whose JJP is in alliance with the BJP, met Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar in Delhi and said he is hopeful that the next round of talks between the Centre and the unions will take place in the next 24-40 hours.