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Marathon talks fail as farmers stick to their guns

Next dialogue on Saturday; unions’ leaders present five-point demands to Govt, say won’t accept anything less than repeal of all three farm laws.

The eight-hour-long fourth round of talks between the agitating farmer unions and the Government on Thursday failed to end the standoff over the new farm laws as the protestors refused to accept anything less the repeal of all the three farm laws. Another round of discussions will be held on Saturday in a bid to forge a resolution.

Althought the Government side, led by Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar, assured the group of nearly 40 farmer leaders that all their valid concerns would be discussed and considered with an open mind, the farmers stuck to their demand of repealing the three “hastily-passed” farm laws, saying there were several loopholes and deficiencies.

Bharatiya Kisan Union (Ambarta) president Rishipal said, “the Government noted all points. Ministers assured that they will look into them and sought one day’s time.”

The farmer leaders emphasised on a five-point set of demands that seeks to frame a specific law on Minimum Support Price (MSP) and end the punishment provision for stubble burning.

Farmer leader Kulwant Singh Sandhu said the government made many proposals including on MSP and procurement system, which would be discussed among the farmer organisations on Friday, before the next meeting.

The farmers emphasised that the provision to register a case for stubble burning should be ended, and asked why the Government wasn’t ready to give them “written assurance” on MSP despite its earlier statements that MSP will continue.

The farmer union representatives emphasised that a new law on MSP be framed in a special session of Parliament, demanding that it must guarantee them MSP not only now but in the future as well.

The farmer leaders said, “Let us assume that MSP will continue but the procurement would stop. The MSP will have no meaning then.”

The farmer union representatives said the Government said the three farm laws were brought in with the interests of farmers in mind.

However, they had never kept these in mind. They said the farm laws have been passed to benefit big business and corporate houses.

Giving an example of sugarcane procurement, the farmers’ organisations objected to contract farming and pointed out its drawbacks.

The 5-point set of demands came two hours after the ongoing meeting which started around 12.30 pm at Vigyan Bhawan in presence of the Centre’s representatives: Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar and Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution Minister Piyush Goyal.

The Bharatiya Kisan Union, the Bharatiya Kisan Sanyukta Morcha and the Krantikari Kisan Union are among the more than 34 farm union representatives who put the demand before the Centre to call a special session of Parliament and frame a law on MSP.

The farm unions were also reportedly adamant on demanding the Government repealing its three farm laws enacted in September during the Monsoon Session of Parliament. They have also put some other demands on behalf of thousands of farmers owing allegiance to these organisations, huddled under the open sky in the cold winter, refusing to budge until their demands are met.

The meeting, which is expected to play a major role in farmers’ future course of action on whether they would continue the protest or withdraw it, is crucial as many of the farmers’ demands would lead to new challenges for the government whose focus is to end the farmers’ agitation going on since November 26. Thousands of protesters have blocked five Delhi borders connecting Chandigarh, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh crippling the chain of supply to the national Capital.

The meeting is also being attended by Union Minister of State for Commerce Som Prakash and Agriculture Secretary Sanjay Agarwal.

The fourth round of meetings with the farmer leaders started at Vigyan Bhawan after the earlier talks remained inconclusive on December 1.

In the last meeting, the farmers’ representatives had unanimously turned down the Centre’s proposal of a special committee to thrash out the differences and resolve concerns over the farm laws.

A breakthrough was not expected in a single meeting, sources had said, in view of the government firmly standing by the laws it has called “historic reforms” in the farm sector.

The farmers though have hardened their stance, warning that if on Thursday “the last chance” for the Government to take a decision on the laws, was not taken, the stir could intensify further.

In place of a committee, they have demanded a special session of Parliament to repeal what they have called “black laws” made to favour corporate houses.

The meeting between the Government and the farmer representative began after a detailed discussion among the Home Minister, Agriculture Minister and the Consumer Affairs Minister at the Home Minister’s residence.

Meanwhile, amid the escalating protests around Delhi, spearheaded by farmers from Punjab and Haryana, Home Minister Amit Shah and Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh also met for around half-an-hour.

The Government is still holding on to its stance of not rolling back the three farm laws which farmers allege are “anti-farm” and “black laws”.

The three laws are: Farmers Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020, The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020, and The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020.

Friday, 04 December 2020 | Staff Reporter/Agencies | New Delhi

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