New Delhi: Hours before the fifth round of talks between farm union leaders and the central government over the three new agriculture laws, farmers Saturday said anything short of complete rollback of the laws will not be acceptable.
The farmer unions are scheduled to meet Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar for talks at Delhi’s Vigyan Bhawan at 2pm. This will be the third round of talks to be held this week. Two other meetings were held in October and November, but all remained inconclusive.
“We have decided that we will go into the meeting and tell them that there have been enough talks already. We demand that the three farm laws as well as the Electricity Bill be repealed completely. We will only talk about the MSP after the government assures us that the laws will be repealed,” said Satyavan, working group member, All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee (AIKSCC), an umbrella group of 31 farmer unions organising the protests in Punjab and Haryana.
‘No discussion on MSP unless laws repealed’
At the fourth round of talks held Thursday, the government had considered the 10-page document prepared by the farmers’ unions with clause-by-clause objections to the three laws and offered to make amendments. But the unions have refused to relent. “We want the three laws repealed. That is our main and only demand. As for the rest we will see how the meeting goes,” said Gurnam Singh, chief, Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) Haryana.
The farmers have been camping in and around Delhi to protest against the three farm laws — the Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020 which allows farmers to sell their produce outside Agricultural Produce Marketing Committees (APMC) constituted by different state legislations; The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, 2020 which allows contract farming; and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill 2020 which deregulates the production, supply, distribution of food items like cereals, pulses, potatoes, onion and edible oilseeds.
The farmers say that the laws will pave way for “corporatisation” of agriculture and that they will not get a fair price for their produce.
At Thursday’s meeting, the government had offered to make amendments to the laws which included strengthening the APMC system, as well as a look at the grievance redressal mechanism which would allow farmers to take their grievances to the judiciary instead of the district collector in the present structure.
The government also offered to consider a discussion on MSP, but the farmers said that unless the three laws are repealed there will be no discussion on MSP.
“Reiterating its demand of repeal of the three Farm Acts and EB 2020, the Working Group of AIKSCC has said there is no space absolutely for any discussion on MSP as farmers interest can be safeguarded only when MSP is given at the Swaminathan formula of 1.5 times the cost of all inputs, it is declared for all crops and there is guaranteed environment of purchase of crops from all farmers,” said AIKSCC in a press release Friday.
Call for Bharat Bandh
Agitating farmers Friday called for a ‘Bharat Bandh’ on 8 December and threatened to occupy toll plazas. “We will hold a nationwide shutdown on Tuesday against these three laws. Awareness programmes have already been started in villages to ensure everyone participates in the strike,” said Satyavan.
Ahead of the meeting Saturday, Union Agriculture Minister Tomar, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, Railways Minister Piyush Goyal and Home Minister Amit Shah met Prime Minister Narendra Modi at his residence. “I am very hopeful that farmers will think positively and end their agitation,” Tomar said.
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