New Delhi: The stand-off between farmers and the government on the new farm laws continued on Tuesday with around 35 farmer unions rejecting the Centre’s proposal to set up a committee to look into the matter.
According to some media reports, the Centre has called for another round of talks on December 3.
Tuesday’s talks were held between farmer organisation representatives and three Union ministers, including agriculture minister Narendra Singh Tomar.
Sources said farmer representatives were unanimous in seeking repeal of the three laws that they have been terming as being against the interest of the farm community and legal assurance on minimum support price (MSP) for crops.
After the meeting, Bharat Kisan Union (Ekta Ugrahan) President Joginder Singh Ugrahan tlod PTI that talks remained inconclusive and the government has called for another meeting on December 3.
"The farmer's organisations rejected the government's proposal to form a five-member committee to look into the issues related to the new farm laws," Roopsingh Sanha, member of Bharat Kisan Union (Ekta Ugrahan), told PTI.
Meanwhile, peaceful sit-ins by farmers, mostly from Punjab and Haryana, continued at the Singhu and Tikri borders, while the numbers of protestors swelled at the Ghazipur border on Monday.
The opposition parties, too, stepped up the pressure, asking the Centre to "respect the democratic struggle" of the farmers and repeal the laws.
Tuesday’s meeting with the Centre attended by farmers’ delegates including Gurnam Singh Chaduni of Bharatiya Kisan Union (Haryana); Hannan Mollah, general secretary of All India Kisan Sabha, and Shiv Kumar Kakka of Rashtriya Kisan Mazdoor Mahasangh among others.
However, the Centre’s move to invite farmers’ organisations for talks has been dealt with caution by leaders due to the diversionary tactics at play. The Centre had invited only Punjab-based organisations who were mainly part of first round of talks.
Jagmohan Singh Patiala, general secretary of the BKU told NewsClick over phone that the talks will be headed by the Samyukt Kisan Morcha - a coming together of prominent farmers’ bodies leading the protest - and not just by the Punjab unions. The decision was possibly taken in view of the prominent presence of farmers from Haryana and other states in the blockade at Singhu, Tikri and Ghazipur borders of the national capital.
A source told NewsClick that the inclusion of non-Punjab unions in the delegation was taken to ward off the allegations that the protests are restricted to only one state. “May be the Centre had invited only the Punjab unions to prove its point. There could also be a thinking of breaking the unity between the unions with this,” the source told NewsClick.
Farmers also appear to be united and unmoved by the diversionary tactics. Harjit Singh from Ludhiana told NewsClick, “This is not the struggle of Punjab’s farmers. It’s a pan India struggle and fought unanimously and unitedly. Our leaders have gone for the meeting. Let’s see what is decided.”
The central demand of the farmers is that the three farm laws, which they believe would lead to corporate takeover of agriculture in the country, be repealed. They have also demanded that the Minimum Support Price—for the produce on the recommendations of Swaminathan Commission which directed the remunerative prices to be fixed at 50% above the cost of production—be written into law.
Further, the laws also facilitate contract farming through agreements between farmers and agro companies. Not only, the laws also do away with the APMC regulated mandis, which would worsen the situation and pave the way for corporate entry. This may in turn lead to a decline in public procurement and a crumbled Public Distribution System. Again, the amendment to the Essential Commodities Act (ECA) removes limits on stocks and pricing, thus giving free hand to big traders and agri business to buy up grain, stock it in large quantities and sell it at high prices.
The Centre attracted the ire of farmers’ organisations after the Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his monthly monologue ‘Mann Ki Baat’ suggested that the protests were fuelled by rumours and the agitating farmers did not have complete understanding of the lawss.
All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee, in its statement, had rebuffed PM Modi’s claim and said, “The Prime Minister has called the new farm laws a fulfilment of the farmers’ demand itself, “for higher income”, “giving them new rights and new opportunities” and his utterances is a further insult to their farmers’ hopes that the government will make sincere effort to address their issues and concerns. The government is still claiming it has to create awareness about the benefits of the Farm Acts, while farmers are clear that these Acts are only about Freedom to the Corporate, Opportunities for the Corporate, Income for the Corporate, at the cost of farmers.”
Explaining that the farmers are demanding only their due, Jashndeep Singh, a farmer from Fatehpur Sahib District in Punjab told NewsClick, “The farmers are demanding a simple and feasible solution. Let states decide their minimum support price for themselves because the conditions for farming and irrigation are different. If I tell you our experience, digging a bore well in our region would cost us Rs 2 lakh. Additionally, we have costs for fertilisers and pesticides too. So, the cost depends on the locality and conditions. We have no fascination to fight with police. Give us our due and we will return.”
BJP Ally in Haryana Wants Written MSP Assurance
In Chandigarh, BJP’s ruling coalition partner in Haryana, the Jannayak Janata Party (JJP), on Tuesday suggested that the Centre should give a written assurance to farmers that the MSP system will continue, reports PTI.
The remark by JJP president Ajay Chautala comes on the day independent MLA Sombir Sangwan withdrew support to the BJP-led government in the state, also expressing support for the farmers against the new farm laws.
Chautala said the assurance on the MSP has been repeatedly made by the Centre, including by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar.
“So what is the harm in adding and writing that line,” the former MP told reporters in Sirsa, shortly before the talks between farmers and the Centre began in Delhi.
On Tuesday, Independent MLA from Dadri, Sombir Sangwan, withdrew support to the BJP-JJP government in Haryana. A day earlier, he had resigned as chairman of the state's livestock development board.
“Instead of sympathising with the farmers' cause, this government used all measures like water cannons and tear gas to stop them from marching to Delhi. I cannot continue my support to such a government,” Sangwan said.
( Inputs from Singhu border by Ronak Chhabra, Video by Mukund Jha)