The bandh declared by All India Kissan Sangharsh Coordination Committee on Tuesday saw an outpouring of support from states such as Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Assam and Himachal Pradesh, even as the fifth round of negotiations between farmers and Union Minister Amit Shah failed, raising new fears of a widening gap between what farmers want and what the government was willing to offer.
AIKSCC member Kavita Kuruganti pointed out that the Farmers' Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020 would only make farmers more vulnerable to exploitation by private players.
"In the new markets of big corporate players, which the government is claiming will buy directly from farmers now without intermediaries, farmers will be denied credit services that the traditional system offers," Kuruganti said in an interview to LiveMint.
"In neither of these markets are prices assured...In several states where the procurement system is decentralized and is at the farm-gate level, it benefits even the most marginalized such as women farmers. That is why farmers are afraid of their lack of negotiation power in the new private markets."
She pointed out that the protests were strengthened by the fact that even farmers back in Punjab and Haryana were supporting their counterparts at the frontlines, given the unique relationship that both these states had with their 'mandis' (regulated wholesale markets) as opposed to states where such a market was not developed.
Although talks between the Central government and farmers have been cordial, there have been allegations that the Bharatiya Janatha Party has tried to actively suppress dissent and prevent protests against the new farm laws.
In Punjab, heavy load-shedding and lack of train services have caused resentment, with the Central Government alleging that farmers were blocking the tracks in protest and farmers union representatives countering with accusations that the Central Government was attempting to handicap the state to stop protests.
The Central government has stood firm by the decision to introduce the law, touting it as beneficial to small-time farmers as it removes middlemen and allows farmers to approach and negotiate with corporates directly, transferring the risk of market unpredictability to the sponsor instead of the farmer.
No meeting will be held between farmers union representatives and the government today. Instead, a formal proposal was sent by the government and submitted for consideration in a meeting of farmer's heads at the Singhu border. Meanwhile, leaders of the Opposition have sought a meeting with President Ram Nath Kovind to discuss the issue of the protests.