Farmers protest: Can still talk, says govt; farmer unions threaten Delhi blockade if demands not met

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December 11, 2020 7:15 AM

The unions added that they would block the Jaipur-Delhi and the Delhi-Agra expressways “on or before December 12,” and all the roads entering into the national capital, one-by-one, if their demands are unmet.

All the 40-odd farmers unions who have come together under the Samyukta Kisan Morcha would discuss their strategy further on Saturday. (Photo source: IE)

Declaring that they are steadfastly on the warpath, farmer unions on Thursday categorically rejected the government proposals to amend the three contentious agriculture-marketing laws they want abrogated. Even after agriculture minister Narendra Singh Tomar said the door for discussions “are still open” and that further changes in the laws could be made, farmer leaders said they would intensify their agitation against the laws with a nationwide protest on December 14.

The unions added that they would block the Jaipur-Delhi and the Delhi-Agra expressways “on or before December 12,” and all the roads entering into the national capital, one-by-one, if their demands are unmet.

Farmer leader Shiv Kumar Kakka told media here that there was nothing new in the government’s proposals sent to them on Wednesday, and that these was “completely rejected” by the “Sanyukta Kisan Committee”. Jangvir Singh, leader of another union, however, said the unions might consider if the government sent another proposal.

All the 40-odd farmers unions who have come together under the Samyukta Kisan Morcha would discuss their strategy further on Saturday.

Addressing the media to make the government’s stand clear, Tomar said: “It is not right to announce agitation when talks are happening. The talks are still on. There is no break-down. Farmers should express their views during the discussions, as we are ready with an open mind to discuss all issues at any forum.”

He, however, asserted the laws won’t be scrapped, though the farmer unions are disinclined to accept anything less. “No law is completely bad. We are still ready to discuss any specific clauses in the laws on which farmers have objections.” The minister also reiterated that there was “no relation between MSP with these laws”, adding, “these laws are not going to impact the current MSP procurement system. “We are ready to give it (the promise no threat to MSP) in writing. Regarding making MSP legal, this is not the topic of discussion at the moment”.

Commerce and food minister Piyush Goyal said there are also farmers who support the laws that give them freedom of choice to sell produce anywhere in the country. Goyal cited the recent panchayat election results in Rajasthan and said the victory of BJP shows that rural population welcomed the farm laws.

Among other concessions offered to farmers, the government had said it would amend the laws to empower states to make rules for registration of traders, and levy same fees/cess as in APMC mandis on private market yards. Also, dispute resolution would be brought under the judiciary and credit against infrastructure built on contracted farm land would be disallowed to allay the farmer’s fears of loss of possession/ownership of their lands.

Also, the government would ensure continuation of current electricity payment system even after amendment in the law concerned. On another critical concern on heavy penalty proposed for stubble burning, the government said the issue would be suitably addressed. An Ordinance in this regard was promulgated after an order of the National Green Tribunal, wherein Rs 1-crore penalty and five years’ imprisonment were proposed for stubble burning.

Disapproving of the farmers’ unions decision to intensify the agitation when “talks are continuing,” Tomar urged farmers to return to their homes in view of adverse weather conditions amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

Elaborating the proposals sent to some farmer leaders on Wednesday, Tomar said even though the leaders did not share any specific suggestions with regard to different provisions in the three laws in question, the government made the proposals on the basis of points discussed during five rounds of meetings held earlier.

“We have not received any letter from the government and we will discuss it among ourselves if the government send any invite for talks. However, most of the farmer leaders are of the view that after 50 hours of discussions, the government has not been offering what we want. The protest plan will continue as announced on Wednesday,” Shiv Kumar Sharma, president of Rashtriya Kisan Mahashangha, said.

(With agency inputs)

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