President of Suriname, Chandrikapersad Santokhi (of Indian-origin) will be the Chief Guest at India’s Republic Day Parade on 26 January 2021 after British Prime Minister Boris Johnson canceled his visit to India –the decision to cancel the visit was taken in view of the COVID-19 pandemic that has escalated in UK because of the new strain of the coronavirus.
The roadshow traditionally draws a huge crowd of who’s who and show of muscle (armory) of the world’s largest democracy and the second largest populated country on Earth.
This time, a 175km long farmers’ tractor march is on its way to capital Delhi. Buses as far as from Kerala are also on their way to join the March.
“Between 2000 and 2015, 16,600 farmers and farm workers committed suicide. Incidentally, the total debt that Punjab farm households are reeling under is Rs 1 lakh crore.”Devinder Sharma
According to reports, several dozens foreign media and channels including Discovery have reached Delhi to cover the Farmers Protest March –they want the repeal of new farm laws announced by PM Modi’s government which will affect the country’s food sector. It has affected the opinion divide already, specially in Punjab and Haryana.
Punjab and Haryana region together is India’s food basket.
A study done jointly by the Punjab Agricultural University, Ludhiana, Punjabi University, Patiala and Guru Nanak Dev University in Amritsar — all public sector universities — showed that between 2000 and 2015, 16,600 farmers and farm workers committed suicide. Incidentally, the total debt that Punjab farm households are reeling under is Rs 1 lakh crore.
“Pick up a Punjabi newspaper, and chances are that you will find one or two suicides being reported almost daily. Also, every third farmer in Punjab happens to be below the poverty line.”Devinder Sharma
On board the march is Devinder Sharma, journalist, author, and food and trade policy expert. “Just spend one night in a trolley or tent on a road outside Delhi, and tell me if you would do that for more than a month even if you were paid to,” he tweeted.
“Pick up a Punjabi newspaper, and chances are that you will find one or two suicides being reported almost daily. Also, every third farmer in Punjab happens to be below the poverty line,” says Sharma in an interview with The Wire.
The farmers protest on Delhi’s border has now crossed the 60-day mark. The Tractor March to Delhi is expected to be the ‘inconvenient guest’ at its Republic Day. All 127 Routes for Delhi are being sealed, an independent observer says.
“We have all seen many movements but for the first time Modi’s government is faced with someone as stubborn as itself,” says the observer.
A convoy of tractors, pickup trucks and farm-related equipment: The Tractor march has been approved by Delhi police for the Republic Day. 100km has been approved.
India’s domestic realm (“anti-Muslim citizenship” legislation and Farmers law) shows as mixed a record as its diplomatic and security arena (Kashmir and Ladakh),” an analyst based in the Asia-Pacific says. “The first lethal violence along LOAC in over a quarter century, as ties with the U.S. and Quad partners deepened, while those with China, which the Quad targets, worsened”, he adds.
Meanwhile, a campaign to install 20,000 ‘Farmer Flags’ across Punjab — to support the Republic Day Tractor Rally has been launched. “The flags will be installed in all major cities of Punjab,” says a campaign supporter.
“The plate is full for Modi, and guess who’s coming to dinner? Tractors and farmers,” says an Indian-American who says he and his friends support the protest.