Farmer protests: Farmers win in two of four issues, government also agrees to discuss other two demands

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December 31, 2020 7:15 AM

Tomar also appealed to farmer leaders to ensure return of women, children and senior citizens to their homes in view of the extreme cold weather.

While assuring that procurement and market of agricultural produce on MSP will continue as before, agriculture minister Narendra Singh Tomar suggested that a committee could be formed to resolve the difference between MSP of agricultural produce and their market prices.While assuring that procurement and market of agricultural produce on MSP will continue as before, agriculture minister Narendra Singh Tomar suggested that a committee could be formed to resolve the difference between MSP of agricultural produce and their market prices.

The chances of a solution to the prolonged agitation by farmers at the border of the national capital and elsewhere appeared bright for the first time on Wednesday, with the government acceding to two of the four demands raised by farmers.

The government also agreed to discuss the other two (more important) demands — repeal of the laws and legally guaranteed minimum support prices (MSPs) — at the next round of talks on January 4.

The government also is learnt to have suggested that an expert committee be formed to weigh the ramifications of a legally mandated MSP system.

According to the decision conveyed by the government after talks that lasted for over five hours with representatives of more than 40 farmer groups, farmers would be kept outside the ambit of air pollution Ordinance, meaning no stiff penalties will be imposed on them for stubble burning. Also, the current electricity subsidy system for irrigation, where the farmers pay at highly subsidised rates, will continue, so farmers won’t have to pay the full rate and then get the subsidy at bank accounts via the direct benefit transfer system.

While assuring that procurement and market of agricultural produce on MSP will continue as before, agriculture minister Narendra Singh Tomar suggested that a committee could be formed to resolve the difference between MSP of agricultural produce and their market prices.

Expressing the hope that the next round of talks will produce a solution to the vexed issue, Tomar said: “I hope that in the new year, solutions would be found. The remaining issues will be discussed in the next round of talks and I hope there will be an agreement between government and farmer unions:”

“We welcome the spirit of today’s talks and are hopeful of a positive outcome in the next round of discussions,” Rakesh Tikait, spokesperson, Bharatiya Kisan Union said. However, farmer unions stubbornly stuck to their demand that the three new laws be repealed. On its part, the government asked the farmer leaders to discuss clause by clause all the provisions of the Acts with an expert committee.

Tomar also appealed to farmer leaders to ensure return of women, children and senior citizens to their homes in view of the extreme cold weather. Commerce and food minister Piyush Goyal and minister of state for commerce Som Prakash were also present in the discussions.

On the demand that MSP be made statutory, the government had asked how could it be enforced across the country even if such a law is made. The farmers told the panel of ministers to make it legal and discuss the enforcement issue later, said Shiv Kumar Sharma, a member of working group of Samyukta Kisan Morcha (United Farmers’ Front), the umbrella body that organises the on-going protest by tens of thousands of farmers at the national capital borders.

The farmer unions had demanded that farmers be kept out of the purview of the recently promulgated Ordinance on air pollution, under which up to Rs 1 crore penalty and 5-year imprisonment is provided for stubble burning.

Since October, seven rounds of talks have been held between the Centre and farmers over the farm laws. Modi had appealed to farmers to come for discussions, following which protesting union leaders had mooted their agenda. During the sixth round of talks, which was held between a select group of 13 leaders with home minister Amit Shah, the farmers’ representatives were told in clear terms that the government could not repeal the laws, but was ready for “reasonable” amendments. On legalising the MSP system too, Shah had reportedly told the government’s reservations in accepting the demand.

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