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Farmers Protest: Centre Offers 5-Year Contractual MSP for 3 Crops, Farmers to get Back in 2 Days

‘Delhi Chalo’ protest on stand-by for 2 days as unions decide over proposal tabled, leaders say will resume from February 21 if other issues are not resolved too; SKM to continue holding mast protests outside homes of BJP ministers in Punjab to build pressure

Image: PTI

Late on February 18, during the fourth round of talks between the farmer leaders and union ministers, a key proposal by the Union has been tabled before the farmer leaders on the issue of a minimum support price guarantee. As has been reported by media, the said proposal states that government agencies would buy three pulse crops, maize, and cotton at MSP for five years after entering into a legal contract with farmers. Notably, the meeting held yesterday in Chandigarh had gone on for almost 5 hours, lasting late till 1.30 am.

The panel of three union ministers, namely Piyush Goyal (Food Minister), Arjun Munda (Union Agriculture Minister) and Nityanand Rai (Minister of State for Home Affairs), had been engaging in talks with farmer leaders Jagjit Singh Dallewal (convener of SKM non-political), Sarwan Singh Pandher (coordinator of the Kisan Mazdoor  Morcha) and Jarnail Singh in hopes to find a solution to the demands being raised by the farmers as a part of their ‘Delhi Chalo’ protest and the said proposal comes as the latest development. The union ministers and farmer leaders had met earlier on February 8, 12 and 15 but talks remained inconclusive.

As per the statement given by Goyal in regards to the proposal tabled, “The government promoted cooperative societies like NCCF (National Cooperative Consumers’ Federation of India) and NAFED (National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation of India) will form a contract for the next 5 years and buy products from the farmers on MSP. There will be no limit on the quantity.”

Goyal further emphasised on their “out-of-the-box thinking” in regards to this proposal as it focuses on diversification into pulses, cotton, and maize, with assurances of MSP without quantity limitations. To his press address, he added “This approach will save Punjab’s farming, improve the groundwater table, and save the land, which is already under stress, from getting barren.” As per a report of the India Today, the Union Minister also mentioned that several policy matters discussed require broader representation and cannot be finalised immediately. He assured that these discussions would continue, taking into account the upcoming elections and the need for comprehensive policy solutions.

While the proposal can be deemed as a step forward by the union government, it does not fully cater to the demands being raised by the protesting farmers, which had asked for a law on MSP to be brought in that would provide a legal guarantee to all 23 crops of which the Union government decides MSP every year. It is in this view that after the proposal was tabled, the farmers refused to commit at the spot and sought time from the union ministers to discuss the proposal at their forums over the next two days and then decide the future course of action.

As per the report of the Wire, farmer leader Dallewal also addressed the media and stated that they will discuss the proposal by the government with their respective forums and experts and “Then, we will come to a conclusion.” Notably, the farmer leaders have also announced that their ‘Delhi Chalo’ protest will also be on stand-by till the farmers are perusing over the proposal. Pandher said a discussion on loan waivers and other demands is pending. It has been clarified by the farmer leaders that if no result is meted out by then on all issues, they will resume their protest from 11 am on February 21. As per media reports, farmer leader Pandher said, “Our ‘Delhi Chalo’ will continue from February 21 if no final result comes out in next two days. We have other demands apart from MSP.”

It is pertinent to highlight here that the ‘Delhi Chalo’ protest had begun on February 13 on the call made by the Samyukta Kisan Morcha- Non-Political and the Kisan Mazdoor Morcha, whereby more than 200 farmers’ unions, mostly from Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, and Punjab, were to march to Delhi to demand Union’s action on their long-standing demand of enactment of a law to guarantee MSP for their produce. Besides MSP, the farmers also demanded the implementation of the Swaminathan Commission’s recommendations which provided for safeguarding the interest of small farmers and addressing the issue of increasing risk overtaking agriculture as a profession. In addition to this, pensions for farmers and farm labourers, farm debt waiver, withdrawal of police cases and “justice” for victims of the Lakhimpur Kheri violence also form a part of the demands made. Lastly, farmers also demanded for 200 days’ daily wage and Rs 700 per daily wage for MNREGA (Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act) workers.

Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann, who was also present at the talks on Sunday, advocated for crop diversification while also urging for the lifting of the internet suspension in certain areas. As per a report of the India Today, Mann stated that the next decisions regarding the government’s proposals will come from the farmer unions. “The ball is now in the farmers’ court,” he said, adding that “no door is closed” for further dialogue. It is essential to note that the suspension of internet services has been extended in certain areas of Punjab districts, including Patiala, Sangrur, and Fatehgarh Sahib, until February 24. The Haryana government has also suspended mobile internet services and bulk SMS in several districts, including Ambala, Kurukshetra, and Hisar.

Samyukt Kisan Morcha to continue with sit-in protests to maintain pressure on the government

Despite the temporary pause announced by the KMM and SKM (non-political) farmer leaders in the ‘Delhi Chalo’ protest, farmer leaders belonging to the Samyukta Kisan Morcha have announced further protests to maintain pressure on the government to meet their demands. As per the report of India Today, the farmers’ union plans to conduct mass protests outside the residences of Bharatiya Janata Party leaders in Punjab for three days, and make toll barriers free for commuters from February 20 to 22. The SKM National Coordination Committee and general body have also announced that they meet on February 21 and 22 to take stock of the situation and decide future plans of action to intensify the ongoing struggles.

Their main demand is for immediate action to be taken in accordance with the agreements that had been made by the union with the SKM on December 2, 2021, at the time of withdrawing the farmers’ protests against three farm laws. Notably, these MSP as recommended by the M.S. Swaminathan Committee, comprehensive loan waiver, no privatisation of electricity, dismissal and prosecution of Union Minister of State for Home Ajay Mishra Teni for his alleged role as a conspirator in Lakhimpur Kheri incident and stop the repression of farmers on the Punjab border.

As per a report of the Hindu, the SKM has also condemned the Narendra Modi government for legalising corruption through electoral bonds and piling up thousands of crores as party funds. This is in regards to the Supreme Court verdict delivered recently wherein they have held the Electoral Bond Scheme to be unconstitutional. As per the report, the SKM alleged that the pro-corporate farm Laws, labour codes, Electricity Act amendments, the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana in which insurance companies have amassed over ₹57,000 crores at the expense of farmers, pre-paid smart meters, sale of profit-making public sector undertakings, privatisation of airports and ports, a host of such legislation and policies are all favours returned to its corporate cronies. “The BJP had accumulated thousands of crores by legalising corruption, deployed it for toppling democratically elected governments as well as influencing elections through massive propaganda, impossible to match for any other political party. The SKM hopes that this verdict will also spur a movement to clear doubts over the EVM by making it a fool-proof mechanism,” the SKM said.

Courtesy: subrang india

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