Farmers broke police barricades and faced water cannons, including near Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar’s house in Karnal, as they laid siege to residences of legislators and ministers in Punjab and Haryana on Saturday to protest the delay in commencement of paddy crop procurement.
The Centre, on Thursday, had postponed procurement of kharif paddy in Punjab and Haryana, which usually begins on October 1, to October 11, as the crop maturity is delayed and moisture content in fresh arrivals is beyond permissible limits owing to recent heavy rains.
In Karnal, the Haryana Police used water cannons to disperse protesting farmers after they tried to lay siege to Khattar’s residence, while in Shahabad and Panchkula, the agitators used tractors to break police barricades to reach the of BJP leaders, including Haryana minister Sandeep Singh, officials said.
The situation became tense in a few places in Haryana and Punjab after minor clashes broke out between the farmers and police. In several places in these states, farmers after reaching the residences of ministers, legislators and MPs, parked their food grain-laden trolleys in front of their houses.
While the BJP, in alliance with the JJP, is in power in Haryana, the Congress is the ruling party in Punjab, and both state governments have urged the Centre to ensure farmers do not face any problem in paddy procurement.
In Punjab, farmers gathered outside the residences of several Congress legislators, including state assembly Speaker Rana K P Singh in Rupnagar and MLA Harjot Kamal in Moga, and staged protests over the delay in purchase of paddy crop.
While Punjab Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi has urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to ask government agencies to begin paddy procurement, Khattar, along with Haryana Agriculture Minister J P Dalal, rushed to Delhi on Saturday to ensure farmers do not face any problems in crop procurement.
The Samyukt Kisan Morcha (SKM), an umbrella body of farmer unions, on Friday had given a call for holding protests outside the residences of legislators in Punjab and Haryana to register their protest.
Police said that there was no report of any “major” untoward incident from the two states.
The procurement operation is undertaken by the central government’s nodal agency Food Corporation of India (FCI), along with state agencies.
Haryana Minister Anil Vij on Saturday said the farmers’ agitation is getting “violent day by day”.
“Farmers’ agitation is getting violent day by day. Violent movement in the country of Mahatma Gandhi cannot be allowed…,” said Vij in a tweet.
Police personnel were deployed in strength to maintain law and order, the officials said.
Farmers expressed apprehension that they would suffer if their crop is not purchased at the grain markets.
Paddy crop, though in a small quantity, has started arriving in mandis (markets), especially in the border areas of Punjab, farmers said.
They said the farmers who have brought their crop to the mandis will go back if it is not purchased. Some fear that they would be forced to sell crops below the minimum support price to private traders.