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Act against disruptive activities in farmer protest guise, Centre tells Punjab 
Feb 21, 2024 12:53 pm

The Union home ministry issued an advisory to Punjab hours before protesting farmers equipped with cranes and excavators planned to resume their march to Delhi The Union home ministry has asked Punjab for “stringent action” to curb “disruptive activities in the guise of farmers’ protest” while censuring the state government for allowing gatherings near its borders with Haryana. In an advisory late on Tuesday, the ministry called “the deteriorating law and order situation in Punjab” a matter of concern, citing inputs from central agencies. The advisory was issued as protesting farmers equipped with cranes and excavators planned to resume their march to Delhi on Wednesday after their talks with the Union government on guaranteed prices for their produce failed. The authorities in Haryana have erected barricades on the border with Punjab and blocked a highway to stop farmers from marching to the Capital, about 200 km away. The advisory cited observations of the Punjab and Haryana high court, which  said the farmers’ right to protest was subject to reasonable restrictions. It referred to reports from a central security agency and said there was “a marked deterioration in the law and order machinery in Punjab” in handling the agitation by a few groups of farmers.“Further, it is learnt that the [high] court has asked the Punjab government to ensure that protestors are not gathered in large numbers., especially raising serious objections on use of tractor-trolleys, JCBs and other heavy equipment on highways,” said the advisory, a copy of which HT has seen. It cited reports and said nearly 14,000 people have been allowed to gather at Punjab’s Shambhu border with Haryana on Rajpura-Ambala Road. It added nearly 1200 tractor-trolleys, 300 cars, 10 mini-bus, and other small vehicles were also there. “Similarly, the state has allowed huge gatherings at [the] Dhabi-Gujran barrier of nearly 4500 persons with nearly 500 tractor trolleys.” The ministry referred to the deteriorating law and order and added it seems to have “freely allowed miscreants or law-breakers in the guise of protest to indulge in stone-pelting, mobilizing heavy machinery on the border with a marked intention of spreading unrest and disorder in neighbouring States.” “In view of the above, it is requested to kindly take immediate review and stringent action to curb all such disrupting activities in the guise of farmers protest,” the advisory said. Central agencies were monitoring the security situation at the inter-state borders even as elaborate arrangements were in place to ensure that farmers did not enter Delhi. Farmers, including some wearing gas masks, gathered in the morning amid calls for fighting their rights even as police in riot gear lined both sides of the heavily barricaded highway connecting between Punjab with Delhi. The Haryana Police late on Tuesday ordered the seizure of the heavy equipment from the protesting farmers. The farmers on Sunday rejected the government’s proposal of minimum support prices (MSP) for those who diversify their crops to grow cotton, pigeon peas, black matpe, red lentils, and corn. They sought MSP for additional food grains.