Hundreds of farmers, led by the Bharatiya Kisan Union, staged a sit-in at the Muzaffarnagar Collectorate alleging that the Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Act, 2019, has led to increase in transport fee of schools. The protest started after the District Magistrate allegedly refused to take their memorandum and reprimanded the students who came to register their demands on Thursday.Section 144After the police invoked Section 144 in the Collectorate area, farmers scribbled that the BKU had invoked its ‘Section 288’ and that government officials would not be allowed to enter the office. Local sources said that District Magistrate Selva Kumari J had to leave in a private vehicle from the back gate of the Collectorate on Thursday.The farmers stayed overnight on the Collectorate premises and cooked their food there. “The government says that we don’t educate our children. When we raise demands related to education, we are not taken seriously,” said BKU youth wing chief Gaurav Tikait.The protest continued till Friday evening when district officials came out and announced that no change in the transport fee structure would be allowed.According to official sources, following the directions of the Supreme Court, the State government had brought school vans under the legal regulatory framework, which included not only buses run by schools but also vehicles that run under arrangements between parents and private operators.Rakesh Tikait, senior BKU leader, said the new policy might be ideal but not practical. “Public schools that used to charge ₹400-₹500 a month from students commuting from villages are now asking for ₹2,500 a month. A farmer can’t afford this,” Mr. Tikait said.He said the new policy expects schools not to use vehicles that are more than 10 years old. It necessitates putting two guards on each bus and fixes the number of students that could travel in each vehicle according to the number of seats. “We all want GPS and cameras in vehicles but the government should ensure that its cost should not be passed on to parents in the rural areas. Otherwise students will drop out, particularly girls.”On Friday, Ms. Selva Kumari said even in the case of ‘private arrangement’, the increased expenses would not be passed on to parents till the government makes arrangement for the transport of students.Other issuesThe protest has also become a catalyst to raise the existing issues of farmers such as pending dues of sugarcane crops and rise in electricity prices. “The U.P. government had promised that all pending dues would be cleared till August 31, 2019, but now it seems impossible. The rise in electricity tariff in rural areas is also hurting farmer interests,” said Mr. Tikait.