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Punjab’s protesting farmers reject Centre’s offer to meet, say withdraw farm acts first

Farmer bodies say they’ll further intensify stir after rejecting Agriculture Secretary Sanjay Agarwal’s invite for a meeting at Delhi’s Krishi Bhawan.

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Chandigarh: Farmers protesting against the three new agriculture laws in Punjab Wednesday rejected an offer for a meeting with the central government.

Members of the All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee (AIKSCC) held a meeting after Union Agriculture Secretary Sanjay Agarwal wrote a letter inviting them for a meeting to Krishi Bhawan, New Delhi.

“It was unanimously decided to reject the offer and further intensify our stir,” said Dr Darshan Pal, convener of the AIKSCC, which is a conglomerate of 31 farmer bodies that are protesting together against the three farm acts on APMCs, contract farming and amendments to the Essential Commodities Act passed by Parliament into law last month.

“Though it was a personal invitation to attend a meeting tomorrow, neither the contents of the letter nor its format seemed to be right. Also, we are not ready for any talks till the three acts are withdrawn,” Pal further said.


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‘Permanent dharnas

Addressing a press conference after Tuesday’s meeting, AIKSCC members said they had decided to stage dharnas at all toll plazas across Punjab. “We will be sitting on permanent dharnas at the toll plazas and allowing vehicles to cross without paying any money,” said Darshan Pal.

The protesting farmers are also staging sit-in protests on various railway tracks, disrupting train traffic.

Asked about Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh’s request to vacate the railway tracks so that train movement can be normalised, Pal said none of the kisan unions were in favour.

“If we get up from the train tracks, it will lead to a dilution of our stir, while in reality, kisan unions are in favour of intensifying it further,” he said.

“Rail roko, free movement through toll plazas, gherao of BJP leaders, dharnas at Reliance petrol pumps and Reliance Fresh stores will continue indefinitely,” Pal added.

AIKSCC members also decided to further streamline coordination between the various Punjabi singers and artistes who have joined the farmers’ stir.

AAP asks for all-party meet with stakeholders

Meanwhile, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in Punjab wrote to CM Amarinder Singh Wednesday, asking him to organise an all-party meeting with the stakeholders, including representatives of farmers’ organisations and agronomists.

AAP state president and Sangrur MP Bhagwant Mann, and Leader of the Opposition in the Punjab assembly Harpal Singh Cheema said the meeting should be held before the special assembly session.

The CM had announced Monday, during a rally with Rahul Gandhi, that he would call a special session of the assembly and would pass whatever resolution/bill required to counter the “dangerous impact” of the three farm acts. But he didn’t specify when such a session would take place.

Tuesday, Sukhbir Singh Badal, president of the Shiromani Akali Dal which broke its alliance with the BJP after decades on this issue, demanded that the “anti-farmer and pro-corporate provisions” of the APMC Act 2017 enacted by the Congress in Punjab be scrapped in the special Vidhan Sabha session. He said the whole of the state of Punjab should be notified as mandi, or principal market area, by the state assembly.


Also read: Rich farmers dominate farm protests in India. It’s happening since Charan Singh days


 

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