ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Farmers’ Solidarity in the Wake of UP Elections

Recognising social and political fissures amidst a call for unity is essential.

 

Muzaffarnagar, a district town in Uttar Pradesh (UP), recently witnessed the Samyukt Kisan Morchas mahapanchayat, where reports suggest that between 1 lakh and 4 lakh farmers came together in one of the single largest gatherings since the farmers protests took centre stage in 2020. This also follows the recent brutal lathicharge in Karnal, Haryana against farmers who were protesting a public visit by the states chief minister. For the last nine months, the farmers remain steadfast in their call to repeal the three farm acts passed by Parliament in September 2020. Despite 10 rounds of talks with the farmers, the government appears to be content in letting the agitation fade away, unwilling to accept any call for repeal, instead offering a pale compromise through specific amendments to the laws. However, the massive turnout at the mahapanchayat indicates that the momentum has not waned, and with the elections in UP due in 2022, this show of strength assumes significance. Farmers from west UP, Punjab, Haryana, and Rajasthan, along with representatives from other states, have announced a Bharat bandh on 27 September and an aggressive campaign to publicise their demands at the district level across the country. How this nationwide campaign will turn out is difficult to gauge owing to the current uncertainty on the pan-national character of the farmers movement; but the direct announcement of the Mission UPUttarakhand directed at ousting the incumbent Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government, especially in UP in 2022, demands attention.

The Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) in UP, led by Rakesh Tikait who has been the face of the current protests, is primarily concentrated in the Jat-dominated sugar belt in west UP, in the districts adjoining Delhi. The infrastructure of agricultural markets and state procurement in west UP is not as elaborate as in Punjab and Haryana, and farmers are forced to take their wheat produce across the Yamuna into Haryana to claim minimum support price (MSP). Unlike the MSP, sugar grown in this region is procured by the state government on a fixed price based on the fair and remunerative price set by the union government, which leaves farmers dependent on the vagaries of sugar prices in the market. Hence, many farmers in the region have suffered due to unpaid dues from sugar cane mills. Further, under the current state government, farm electricity rates have seen a massive spike that has hurt households.

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Published On : 17th Jan, 2024

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