Protests against farm laws take anti-Ambani, anti-Adani turn in Punjab
Farmers have captured Mukesh Ambani-owned Reliance petrol pumps at many places, started a boycott movement against Jio and forced Adani’s silos to shut down operations in Moga
In what is being seen as the first peasantry movement against corporate firms in the post liberalisation era, protests against the newly enacted farm laws have taken an anti-Ambani and anti-Adani turn in Punjab.
Led by a committee comprising 31 farm organisations, farmers have captured Reliance petrol pumps at many places, started a boycott movement against Jio and forced Adani’s silos to shut down operations in Moga.
While a super store run by Reliance was taken over by the farmers in Ludhiana last week, protesting farmers have taken control of Reliance’s petrol pumps in places like Mullanpur, Barnala and Ludhiana. In Sangrur, farmers have captured a toll plaza and have been staging a sit in at the plaza in protest for several days.
“Sensing the sentiment against Mukesh Ambani, employees have shut the facilities on their own and joined the protest. In some places, farmers have issued diktats to boycott Reliance’s petrol pumps,” said a farmers’ leader. “In Doaba region, capturing Reliance’s petrol pumps and boycotting Jio has become a new form of protest,” he added.
Agitating farmers burnt Jio SIMs near Devi Daspura village, and blocked railway tracks last week.
“We believe the newly enacted farm laws were passed to facilitate Reliance’s entry into the farm sector. This is the only business which will never incur loss as everyone needs food, fruits and vegetables. To protest corporatisation of agriculture, farmers would continue to boycott Reliance,” said Jagmohan Singh Patiala, general secretary, BKU (Dakaunda).
When asked about the Modi government offering a meeting with farmers and the PM’s claim that farm laws were in favour of farmers, Jagmohan said, “Blind favouritism and shameless corporatisation of the farm sector by the Modi government has forced us to hit the street. We asked the government not to pass the laws but they did not listen. We are not going to meet any one other than the PM”.
“We will meet on October 14 and take a call on our future course of action,” said JS Patiala, adding that the farmers’ organisation may give some relaxations to Railways as it will hinder their own cause.
Gautam Adani is also facing the wrath of farmers in Punjab. Nearly 500 farmers have taken control of the Adani’s silos in Moga district for almost two weeks. Sukhdev Singh Kokri, general secretary of BKU (Ekta), said that the protests would continue till the newly enacted farm laws were not rolled back.
What is more worrying for the Modi government is that women and children have joined the protests in large numbers. Punjabi singers have composed songs highlighting farmers’ plight and lies peddled by the Modi government. Some of them have joined farm protests, galvanizing people using their appeal and music.
Former JNU Professor Chaman Lal says, “Anti-corporate tone of the movement is due to large participation of the Left in the movement. In fact the movement was initiated by the Left which is very influential in Punjab.”
“On the surface, it appears to be a farmers’ protest but it has taken the shape of a mass cultural movement against corporate who have long been exploiting resources and monopolising business,” said Chamal Lal, adding that the movement is against monopolisation also.
Echoing Chaman Lal’s views, senior journalist and The Caravan contributor, Shiv Inder warned, “Farmers’ protest may take a dangerous turn as a big vacuum has been created. Farmers believe that mainstream political parties have ditched them for corporations like Reliance and Adani”. “At this stage, nobody can predict what is going to happen next. We may see the birth of a new farmers’ party also,” added Shivedra.
Passed by the Modi government through voice vote in Rajya Sabha in the monsoon session of the parliament, the farm laws allow farmers to sell their crop in open market which will effectively finish the mandi system and contract farming with abolition of APMC Act which made MSP mandatory for the government and buyers.