New Delhi: The united front of farmers comprising different peasants’ union has given a call to boycott on December 26-27 business establishments owned by corporate giants Mukesh Ambani and Gautam Adani, whom they accuse of being the beneficiaries of the three newly-enacted farm laws passed by the Centre.
“We will put up pickets across the country outside the malls and fuel stations owned by Ambani and Adani and peacefully appeal people to boycott their products. Dancing to their tunes, the government has brought the three legislations to pave way for these big corporates to make a foray into the agricultural sector and reduce farmers into agricultural labourers,” said All Indian Kisan Sabha (AIKS) general secretary Hannan Mollah while addressing a press conference of the Sanyukt Kisan Morcha on December 23 at Singhu Border between Delhi and Haryana. At this border point, farmers have been staging a peaceful sit-in against the farm laws since November 26.
The All India Kisan Sangarsh Coordination Committee (AIKSCC), a pan-Indian umbrella organisation comprising 250 farmers’ organisations, has decided to press into service workers, students and teachers to make the boycott happen on behalf of agitating farmers.
“In addition to being against the Centre and the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), this is the first anti-corporate movement in the country since the Independence due to agricultural markets being turned pro-corporate from pro-farmers,” he added.
‘LOVE LETTER DIPLOMACY WON’T WORK’
There seems to be no end to the deadlock between the government and farmers on the three acts any time soon. The joint platform of farmers rejected the Central government’s recent proposal for talks, appealing it to stop sending “love letters” and come up with a “concrete proposal”.
“We urge the government not to repeat those meaningless amendments, which we have already rejected, but come up with a concrete proposal in writing so further rounds of talks can be scheduled. The government should stop sending us love letters as this love letter diplomacy won’t work,” they told the media.
The ‘Sanyukt Kisan Morcha’ has written a letter on behalf of all farmer bodies to the government in response to the latter’s letter dated December 20, stating that the government should not question the previous letter written by the United Farmers’ Front as it was a unanimous decision. The government’s new letter is a fresh attempt to defame farmers’ associations. They also said that they had already intimated to the government during several rounds of talks that the farmers did not want amendments but nullification of the laws.
Following a marathon meeting of the farmer bodies that lasted for nearly three hours, peasant leaders shared the details of their latest letter with journalists.
“After we rejected on December 5, 2020, the government’s oral proposal for amendments, we were told that concrete proposals would be shared with us after consultation with top leadership. But we have not got any such new and concrete proposal so far. You know it well that the written proposal you sent us on December 9, 2020, was nothing but repetition of the verbal proposals you had given us during the talks held on December 5, 2020, and which we had already rejected. You also know that there is not even a mention of the amendment in the Essential Commodities Act in your proposal. We reiterate that we are not asking for any amendment but nullification of the laws,” the letter read.
On the minimum support price (MSP) the farmers’ letter reads, “Apart from the three laws, there is no clear proposal on MSP in your letter that is worth a reply from us. As you yourself have said in the letter that the government has said that it is ready to give in writing that the MSP will be there, but farmer organisations want purchase of agricultural commodities be guaranteed as per Swaminathan Committee recommendations (C2+50%). When you send such a proposal, we will send you our reply for sure. Similarly, your proposal on the law related to supply of electricity for farming [Electricity (Amendment) Act, 2020] is unclear and is only restricted to payment of electricity bills. Until you clear your stand on our demand that the cross-subsidy provision be removed, responding to it is meaningless.”
Responding to the government’s proposal on the Commission for Air Quality Management in NCR and Adjoining Areas, 2020, the letter read, “Your assurance of the air quality management legislation is so hollow that responding to it will be funny.”
The letter in its last and operative point said, “We want to inform you that protesting farmers and their organisations are ready to talk to the government and are eagerly waiting for the government to take an initiative in this regard with open heart and honestly. We urge the government not to repeat those meaningless amendments, which we have already rejected, but come up with a concrete proposal in writing so further rounds of talks can be scheduled.”
This letter has been sent by the farmers’ organisations in response to the letter written to them by Agricultural Ministry Joint Secretary Vivek Aggarwal on behalf of the government. The government, in its letter, has offered the peasant representatives to hold a fresh round of talks at a date and time of their choosing.
Till now, five rounds of talks have failed to break the deadlock between the two sides. While the Centre has reiterated that the laws won’t be scrapped and has instead proposed amendments, the unions have been adamant on a total repeal since the first day of protests.
FARMER LEADERS REACT
After the letter sent to the government was read out by Yogendra Yadav, representatives of different farmer organisations briefly reacted to the government’s latest proposal for talks.
“There cannot be any lie bigger than the government’s allegation that we are not ready for talks. Why have we come here in this spine-chilling cold, leaving the comfort of our houses? Why did so many sacrifice their precious lives? The questions is: why did the government bring such laws that farmers never asked for? The government says that it wants a dialogue, but it’s not giving a meaningful proposal. It is cheating farmers and the people at large,” Mollah alleged.
He said, “The government wants to tire us, but the farmers have no deadline. They (Centre) are misguiding the mood of the moment... The farmers say we will sit here for six months but will not return empty handed. This is a unique movement where 500 groups from across the country have come together and they don't have a single point of difference. They have one demand: repeal the three laws. Mollah added, “It is such a huge protest but not a single leaf of a tree has been disturbed; it is the most peaceful movement...even Gandhiji must be watching over us.”
Yudhvir Singh of the Bharatiya Kisan Union warned the government to not “play with fire”, which may lead to “dangerous repercussions.”
“The government wants to lengthen the protest. We have already made it clear that we don’t want anything less that rollback of the laws, which are death warrants for farmers. The government is playing with fire by taking this protest lightly. This can result into dangerous repercussions. These farmers who are out in the street have their young boys in defense and paramilitary forces. They are also pained when they see their loved ones out on the streets. So, the government must set aside its arrogance and repeal the laws,” he added.
A representative of the Bharatiya Kisan Mazdoor Sangathan said when fifth round of talks with the government was taking place, the Union Agriculture Minister sought to know the farmers’ issues with the legislation.
“We told him it’s a death certificate for farmers and not acceptable to us in anyway. This law was first implemented in the United States and reduced the agriculture farming to just 2%. And that too depended on contract farming. The farming community was eradicated. Our government is also trying the same to reduce us to agricultural labourers who will depend on the mercy of the corporates,” he alleged.
Haryana’s farmer leader Gurnam Singh Chadoni too reiterated that the government is “misguiding” people by claiming that farmers are not ready to come to the negotiation table. “We have never shied away from engaging in discussions. And we will never refuse to go for talks in future as well,” he said.
Speaking about what transpired when Union Home Minister Amit Shah invited them for talks, Chadoni said, “We asked Amit Shah if the government is willing to procure all 23 agricultural products for which the MSP is announced. He said ‘no’ as the government did not have a budget for it. If the government procures these 23 crops from across the country, it would need a budget of Rs 5 lakh crore. It’s unfortunate that the government does not have sufficient funds to purchase farm produces on MSP at a time when the country’s non-performing assets are valued at Rs 15 lakh crore and corporates are given loan waivers.”
“We also proposed that private players purchase farm products from us and the government give us the difference of MSP. He also rejected this proposal, repeating the same that the government did not have the budget for it”, he added.