Thousands of tractors have been lined up at Delhi’s border as protesting farmers prepare to march along the Capital’s periphery on the occasion of Republic Day as a mark of protest against the three farm Acts.
The unions have also announced their future course of action and have decided to move towards Parliament on February 1 — the day when the Union Budget will be presented.
“We will march towards Parliament on foot from different locations on Budget day on February 1. As far as Tuesday’s tractor rally is concerned, it will give the government an idea of our strength and it will know the agitation is not just limited to Haryana or Punjab, but it is an agitation of the entire country,” said Darshan Pal, head of Krarntikari Kisan Union — one of the main groups participating in the agitation.
In a related development, Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar termed the government’s proposal to suspend new farm laws for 1-1.5 years as the “best offer” and hoped that the protesting farmer unions would soon reconsider it and convey their decision.
The talks between the government and 41 protesting farm unions have remained inconclusive even after 11 rounds of discussions.
During the 10th round of talks, the government had climbed down and offered a proposal to keep the new laws in abeyance for 1-1.5 years, but it was rejected by the unions.
Meanwhile, thousands of armed personnel have been deployed at the Rajpath and several border points of the national Capital which has been brought under a multi-layered security cover in view of the Republic Day celebrations as well as the proposed tractor parade by farmers on Tuesday.
Protesting farmer unions opposing the three contentious farm laws said their parade would not enter central Delhi and it would start only after the official Republic Day parade concludes.
The unions claimed that around 200,000 tractors are expected to participate in their parade, which would move into the city from three border points — Singhu, Tikri, and Ghazipur (UP Gate).
For Republic Day celebrations, an official said around 6,000 security personnel have been deployed to maintain vigil.
Facial recognition system of Delhi Police has also been set up at vantage points for suspect identification, the official said.
Farmer leaders have appealed to those participating in the tractor parade to carry enough ration for 24 hours and ensure the rally remains peaceful.
“No one should carry any weapon or drink alcohol. Banners carrying inciting messages are not allowed,” said a farmer leader.
Those starting from the Singhu border will traverse Sanjay Gandhi Transport Nagar, Bawana, Qutabgarh, Auchandi border, and Kharkhoda toll plaza. The entire route will be 63 km long.
The 62-km long second route, starting from the Tikri border, will pass through Nangloi, Najafgarh, Jharoda border, Rohtak bypass, and Asoda toll plaza, the farmer leaders said.
Tractors starting from Ghazipur will drive through Apsara border, Hapur road, and Lal Kuan. Covering 68 km, it is the longest route for the march.
The farmer leaders will be on the frontline in their cars.
All vehicles will have to return to the originating place. No one will try and stop midway without a valid reason, said the farmer leaders. Each tractor will carry a tricolour and there will be folk music and patriotic songs.
Enacted in September last year, the three farm laws have been projected by the Centre as major reforms in the agriculture sector that will remove middlemen and allow farmers to sell their produce anywhere in the country.
However, the protesting farmers have expressed their apprehension that the new laws would pave the way for eliminating the safety cushion of the minimum support price and do away with the ‘mandi’ (wholesale market) system, leaving them at the mercy of big corporates.