Farmer leaders have clearly stated that the agitation will continue till the farm laws are repealed. The government has softened its stance on some demands of the farmers. The farmers protesting on the outskirts of Delhi against the centre's new agricultural laws have called a nationwide shutdown on Tuesday, saying they will block all roads to the capital, amid a stand-off with the government.
The farmers said they will also occupy all highway toll gates across the country and not allow the government to collect tolls as part of the December 8 strike. “More people will join our movement,” Harinder Singh Lakhowal, a leader of one of the protesting groups, told a news conference.
The farmer groups said that in their talks with the government they have asked for the withdrawal of the three laws that they say will leave them at the mercy of large corporations and override safeguards against being cheated.
Announcing the escalation of their protest, the farmers, who faced a brutal police crackdown in Haryana last week before being allowed to hold a peaceful demonstration on the outer fringes of Delhi, said they will take to burning effigies on Saturday.
“We see the government agreeing to our demands on Minimum Support Price, electricity and penalties for stubble burning but we won’t stop till the laws are repealed,” Satnam Singh Ajnala, president of the Jamhoori Kisan Sabha, Punjab, said.
After a seven-hour long meeting on Thursday at Vigyan Bhawan, the representatives of farmer organisation said they don’t want any amendments in the farm laws rather these laws should be withdrawn immediately. In addition to the three farm laws, they have also demanded the removal of heavy penalty on pollution.
Darshanpal, leader of the Krantikari Kisan Union of Punjab, said about the fourth round of meeting held at Vigyan Bhawan. He said that all the farmer leaders were well prepared for the meeting. For the first half an hour, the ministers briefed us about the farm laws and after that we told them about our apprehensions.
Darshanpal said that the government has agreed to make some amendments in the farm laws, remove agriculture from the law to prevent pollution and assured us about the MSP. The government called for a meeting again on December 4, but farmer organisations asked it to do it on December 5 so that we can decide on our strategy on December 4.
He further said that the government has agreed on making amendments in the farm laws and pollution law but we don’t want any amendments. Now we are looking forward to the meeting to be held on December 5.
A farmer leader Harshwinder Singh said, “The ministers asked us about the flaws in the laws. So, we told them that the whole bill is full of flaws. The government informed us that they will meet to think about the demands of the farmers so we also told them that we will also meet to think about the measures government is going to take. We will meet again on December 5 and share the points of our meetings.”
A farmer leader from Punjab Kuldeep Singh said the fourth round of the meeting was inconclusive because the intention of the government was not clear. The government has been stubborn till now. We won’t stop the protest till the anti-farmer laws are repealed.
Meanwhile, Union Agriculture and Farmers Welfare Minister Narendra Singh Tomar said the government will consider the demands of the farmers for level playing field between the APMCs and private markets or trade area outside the APMCs and other issues in the farm laws.
He was interacting with reporters after fourth round of talks between the Central government and representatives of farmers’ organisations at Vigyan Bhawan here on Thursday.
He said that the government is committed to protect the APMCs and consider the issues such as market fee, registration of traders so there should be similarity in the APMCs and trade areas outside the APMCs.
Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) laws, 2020 allows intra-state and inter-state trade of farmers’ produce beyond the physical premises of APMCs and state governments are prohibited from levying any market fee or cess outside APMCs. This is the reason, farmers of Punjab are demanding to repeal this law as they fear that APMCs will collapse due to new farm act.
He also assured the farmer leaders that the minimum support price (MSP) will remain and therefore the farmers should not fear that it will go away.
Minister of Food, Consumer Affairs and Public Distribution, Railways and Commerce Piyush Goel and Minister of State for Commerce Som Prakash and senior officials from the Agriculture Ministry and the Ministry of Food Consumer Affairs and Public Distribution were also present in the meeting joined by 40 representatives of farmers unions across the country.
At the outset of the meeting, Tomar reiterated the government’s commitment to the welfare of the farmers. He requested the representatives of the farmers’ organisations to flag the issues which they felt were contentious. The representatives of the farmers’ unions raised the question of the constitutional validity of the three laws to which detailed explanation about the constitutional provisions under which the Central government legislated these laws was given to them.
The farmers also said that there is a need for proper registration for trade outside the APMCs and issue of protecting the land of farmers in the Contract Farming Act was also raised.
The representatives of farmers’ organisations also said that the MSP system should be made legal. Regarding dispute resolution system in the new Farms Acts, they asked for an alternate dispute resolution system.
The Secretary Agriculture and Farmers Welfare Sanjay Agarwal gave a detailed description of the Farms Acts and the measures taken by the Ministry of Agriculture for the welfare of farmers and those measures taken to benefit agriculture during the lockdown period to keep the supply chains active. (IANS)