New Delhi: A farmer leader from one of the largest unions in Punjab claimed on Saturday that the route for the planned “tractor parade” on Republic Day will be discussed on January 17, in yet another hint of the protesters’ resolve to intensify their agitation against the three Farm Laws.
His statement comes a day after the ninth round of talks between the Centre and the farmer unions failed to make any headway in ending the deadlock over the latter’s demand to repeal the three laws.
In a video message on Facebook, Bharatiya Kisan Union (Ekta Ugrahan) president Joginder Singh Ugrahan said that the details of the farmers’ march in the national capital will be discussed by the protesting unions in a meeting on Sunday.
The BKU (Ekta Ugrahan) is one of the members of the of Samyukt Kisan Morcha, an umbrella body that has been spearheading the ongoing farmers’ movement.
“The unions will discuss from where to begin (the march), how it will be carried forward and how many (are expected) to join,” Singh, speaking in Punjabi, said on the union’s official page. Singh stressed that the planned march on Republic Day must remain “peaceful”, with it being an intensification of their protests at the gates of Delhi.
Thousands of farmers are camping at five border points that connect the national capital to nearby states for nearly two months now.
On talks with the Centre, Singh said that it was “stuck in its position”; it is still keen on amendments to the laws instead of their repeal, as being demanded by the unions. According to Singh, the government interlocutors wanted the farmers unions to form a “small committee” to continue discussions – a proposal that was apparently rejected by the farmer leaders.
Both the parties, however, agreed to meet again on January 19.
Singh also spoke about how international trade bodies are influencing India’s agricultural policies in the backdrop of the farm laws, a concern which has also been raised by experts earlier. “The Centre is not ready to repeal the laws. It is so because ‘big powerful groups’ such as WTO (World Trade Organisation), IMF (International Monetary Fund) and World Bank are backing the same,” Singh said. A subsequent call was made to burn these groups’ posters on January 19.
WTO is the intergovernmental organisation concerned with the regulation of international trade between nations; India has been a member since 1995. In a report, written independently by its Secretariat, and published this month, it was argued that MSP (minimum support price) is distorting cropping patterns.
The issue of guaranteed MSP is one of the major concerns being raised by the protesting farmers. Reviewing India’s trade policy, the report argued that the laws were introduced to address regional disparity in production.
IMF, a global monetary organisation of 190 countries, also came out in support of the Farm Laws this week, reportedly saying that they have the potential to represent a significant step forward for agricultural reforms. Gerry Rice, Director of Communications at the IMF, who made the remarks, however also called for a “social safety net” that protects those who might be adversely affected by the transition to the new system.
Renowned economist Utsa Patnaik, however, has struck an opposing chord. In an opinion piece she wrote for The Hindu last month argued that the implementation of the laws will mean “a severe undermining of the entire system of public procurement and minimum support prices.”
“Anyone with a concern for our own hard- working farmers and poverty-stricken consumers, must support the farmers’ demands against the machinations of both local and global business elites,” Patnaik had written.