New Delhi: After farmers, who have been protesting at five borders surrounding Delhi against the three Farm Laws, rejected the government's offer to put the laws on hold for 1.5 years in a general body meeting of the Samyukta Kisan Morcha, all eyes are on the meeting between farmer leaders and government representatives this noon at the Vigyan Bhawan.
Announcing its decision late on January 21, the Morcha – an umbrella body of 40 striking farmers’ unions and hundreds of others supporting them – reiterated “a full repeal of three central farm acts and enacting a legislation for remunerative MSP for all farmers” as pending demands of the movement.
Paying homage to the 147 farmers who have died during the protest so far, the farmers said: “These companions were separated from us while fighting this mass movement. Their sacrifice will not go in vain and we will not go back without repealing these farm laws.”
Before reaching a decision, 32 farmers’ unions from Punjab had held a meeting to discuss the government’s offer. Sources said that 17 of them outright rejected the proposal of suspending the implementation of the laws for 18 months while the rest were considering the offer, arguing that they would have to show a bit of “flexibility”.
Once the meeting was over, without the leaders having reached a consensus, representatives of nearly 500 unions from across the country under the Morcha then assembled. If sources are to be believed there was no consensus again, with the majority of the peasant bodies asserting on nothing less than the withdrawal of the laws.
According to insiders who were part of the marathon meeting, a small group of unions suggested a new four-point proposal – suspension of the laws for three years; raising the amount of the loan sanctioned on one acre of land from Rs three lakhs to Rs five lakhs; reducing the rate of interest from six per cent to four per cent; compensation to those who have died during the agitation – be presented to the government instead of an outright rejection of its offer.
However, a consensus on rejecting the government's proposal and sticking to the said position of the roll back of the three laws and a legal guarantee of the minimum support price (MSP) was reached following a series of heated exchanges.
Meanwhile, in the meeting held with police officials, cops requested farmer union representatives to not conduct the proposed tractor parade in Delhi. The peasant leaders, however, restated their plan of parade on Delhi’s outer ring road.
“This peaceful movement is becoming a people’s movement and spreading nationwide. Farmers are uniting for Republic Day through vehicle rallies in many places in Karnataka. Farmers’ tractor marches are taking place in many places in Kerala. Farmers from Bilaspur and Rampur in Uttarakhand are preparing for the tractor parade in Delhi by organising tractor marches. Farmers in Chhattisgarh will march to the Raj Bhavan on January 23 and a group of farmers will also leave for Delhi,” the Morcha said in a joint press statement.
It alleged that the ‘Kisan Delhi Chalo Yatra’ of Navnirman Kisan Sangathan, which began from Odisha, is being repeatedly disturbed by Uttar Pradesh police personnel. “Instructions are being given to change their route. Police officials are disturbing public meetings also. We oppose this behaviour of the administration,” the press release said.
“A big three-day protest in Kolkata will take place from January 20 to January 22. Thousands of people are participating in this huge event. It is also expected to intensify the protest in the coming days,” said the farmer leaders, claiming that farmers, labourers and the common people, under the leadership of the Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan, are reaching the Shahjahanpur border.