Farmers’ stir: Centre cedes some ground, but the logjam yet to ease

By: |
December 4, 2020 6:45 AM

After a seven-hour joint meeting with as many as 40 farmer groups, agriculture minister Narendra Singh Tomar said the Centre offered to make changes in one of the farm Acts in order to make registration compulsory for purchase of farm produce from outside the APMC mandis.

Shiromani Akali Dal supremo Parkash Singh Badal on Thursday returned his Padma Bibhushan title to show allegiance to the farmers’ cause.Shiromani Akali Dal supremo Parkash Singh Badal on Thursday returned his Padma Bibhushan title to show allegiance to the farmers’ cause.

The government on Thursday signalled its willingness to concede considerable ground to resolve the stand-off with agitating farmers from Punjab and Haryana over the three recently enacted agriculture laws, but even the fourth round of talks with farmer groups failed to achieve a clear breakthrough. Both sides will meet again on Saturday for another round of confabulations.

After a seven-hour joint meeting with as many as 40 farmer groups, agriculture minister Narendra Singh Tomar said the Centre offered to make changes in one of the farm Acts in order to make registration compulsory for purchase of farm produce from outside the APMC mandis. While this is intended to provide the government an oversight over such purchases, farmers may also be given the facility to move courts for dispute resolution.

Tomar said: “We have assured them (farmer groups) that the APMC mandis would not be closed down; rather the government would work to strengthen APMC mandis. We will also consider providing a level playing field on market fees for trading inside and outside mandis. Another demand was to allow farmers to move courts for dispute resolution which we will consider too.”

Currently, anyone with PAN cards can purchase farm goods outside the APMC networks and SDM/district collector is the adjudicating authority over disputes.

Market fees being paid by FCI and traders are in the state governments’ domain, so the Cenntre’s assurance to streamline them could face practical difficulties.

The government is also learnt to have offered to consider the farmers’ demand for revocation of the new provision of stiff punishment (Rs 1 crore penalty and 5-year jail term) for stubble burning, major cause for the recurring episodes of arming levels of air pollution in the national capital region.

While farmer groups have remained insistent on their demand that the three Acts be repealed, the government during Thursday’s talks too refused to accede to this demand that would undermine the reforms meant to boost the farmer’s access to a diversified pool of buyers and facilitate contract farming and capital investments in agriculture storage and food processing.

A key demand of the thousands of protesting farmers, who have gathered outside Delhi border since November 26, is that the MSP be given legislative backing. On this, the government is understood to have offered to issue an executive order. But given the ambiguity over whether this will provide legal backing for the support price — orders sans legislative support may not stand in courts –the farmer organizations sought time to deliberate among themselves.

However, some leaders appeared ready to accept the executive order route to strengthen the MSP system. “To get the legal status for MSP we need an executive order because mandis are regulated by state governments. The Centre extends only financial support to states,” said Binod Anand, president of Rashtriya Kisan Progressive Association and a founder-member of Rashtriya Kisan Mahashangha, a constituent of Samyukt Kisan Morcha, which is spearheading the protest across the country.

Shiromani Akali Dal supremo Parkash Singh Badal on Thursday returned his Padma Bibhushan title to show allegiance to the farmers’ cause.

Meanwhile, shortages of fruits and vegetables seemed imminent in Delhi due to blockade of entry points to the city. Daily arrivals of fruits and vegetables at Azadpur mandi dropped to 6,000-7,000 tonne from 12,000 tonne a fortnight ago. “The Centre should end the stand-off as there will be severe shortages of fruits and vegetables if the protest continues for a longer period,” said Adil Khan, chairman of Azadpur APMC.

The on-going protest, earlier limited to farmers and Punjab, has started to find resonance in West Bengal where Trinamool Congress supremo and chief minister Mamata Banerjee has called a meeting of her party leaders on Friday to discuss how to make the laws a political issue. As the state is going to polls in six months, in a series of tweets she said: “I am very much concerned about the farmers, their lives and livelihood. The government must withdraw the anti-farmer bills. If they do not do so immediately, we will agitate throughout the state and the country. We will discuss how the Essential Commodities Act is impacting common people and resulting in skyrocketing prices.”

“We still stick to our demand for repeal of the three laws since they threaten our livelihood. A decision will be taken on the next course of action on Friday after discussing in details about the government’s offers during the talks. The protest will continue as the government has not assured to accept our two key demands– repeal of laws and legal rights of MSP,” said Balkaran Singh, a farmer leader of Punjab.

Get live Stock Prices from BSE, NSE, US Market and latest NAV, portfolio of Mutual Funds, Check out latest IPO News, Best Performing IPOs, calculate your tax by Income Tax Calculator, know market’s Top Gainers, Top Losers & Best Equity Funds. Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Financial Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel and stay updated with the latest Biz news and updates.

Next Stories
1West Bengal elections: Mamata Banerjee did more harm than good to Muslims, says Abbas Siddiqui
2Congress alleges government hand in Delhi violence; says use of tear gas by police incited protesters
3Skin to Skin contact: SC stays Bombay HC order acquitting man under POCSO