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Protesting farmers agree to resume talks with Centre, want repeal of farm laws in agenda
The protesting farmer unions on Saturday decided to resume their dialogue with the government and have proposed December 29 as the date for the next round of talks to resolve the deadlock over the Centre's three farm laws.
The decision was taken at a meeting of Sanyukt Kisan Morcha, an umbrella body of 40 farmer unions protesting at various Delhi border points against three farm laws.
Addressing a press conference, farmer leaders made it clear that the modalities for the repeal of three farm laws and guarantee for MSP -- minimum support price at which the government procures crops from farmers -- should be part of the agenda for resuming talks with the government. The unions, however, also decided to intensify their agitation as they gave a call to hold a tractor march from Singhu Border and Tikri Border to the Kundli-Manesar-Palwal (KMP) highway on December 30. They also asked people from Delhi and other parts of the country to join them at the protest sites for New Year celebrations.
In a letter to Joint Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers' Welfare Vivek Aggarwal, the Morcha said, ''We propose that the next meeting between the farmers' representatives and the Government of India be held on December 29, 2020, at 11 am.'' ''As the government is willing to hold talks with us and asking us for date and our issues, we have proposed to hold dialogue on December 29. Now, the ball is in the court of government when it calls us for talks,'' Bhartiya Kisan Union leader Rakesh Tikait told PTI. According to the letter, the agenda proposed by the protesting unions includes amendments to be made and notified in the Commission for the Air Quality Management in National Capital Region and Adjoining Areas Ordinance, 2020 to exclude farmers from its penal provisions.
The farmer unions also demanded that changes in the draft Electricity Amendment Bill 2020 to protect the interests of farmers should also be part of the agenda for the next round of dialogue. There was no immediate response from the government to the agenda proposed by the farmer unions for talks. An official said that the government is ready for amendments, but maintained that there is no question of repealing the three farm laws.
On December 24, Aggarwal had written to the 40 protesting unions and invited them for fresh talks, but made it clear that it would not be ''logical'' to include in the agenda any new demand related to the MSP, which is out of the purview of the three new farm laws. In his letter, the officer had asked the unions to suggest a date and time for the next round of talks.
In its letter to Aggarwal, the Sankyukt Kisan Morcha said, ''Unfortunately, your letter continues the government's attempt to mislead the public by suppressing true facts about the deliberations in the previous meetings. We have consistently demanded the repeal of the three Central Farm Acts, whereas the government has distorted our position as if we were asking for amendments to these Acts.'' ''If you are sincere about respectfully listening to the farmers, as you say in your letter, the government must not indulge in misinformation about the previous meetings. The campaign launched by the entire state machinery to defame and malign the farmers' movement must stop forthwith,'' it said. At the press conference, farmer leader Darshan Pal said that it was also decided that farmers will hold tractor march on the KMP Highway in protest against the Centre's agri laws.
''We request people from Delhi and other parts of the country to come and celebrate New Year with protesting farmers,'' Pal said. Another farmer leader, Rajinder Singh, said, ''We will march from Singhu to Tikri to KMP. We ask farmers from surrounding states to come in huge numbers in their trolleys and tractors. If the govt doesn't want us to block the KMP highway, then they better announce the repeal of the three farm laws.
Thousands of farmers have been camping at three Delhi border points -- Singhu, Tikri and Ghazipur -- for nearly a month, demanding the repeal of three agri laws enacted in September and a legal guarantee on minimum support price. While the government has presented these laws as major reforms aimed at helping farmers, protesting unions have maintained these acts will leave them at the mercy of big corporates by weakening the mandi and MSP systems.
On Wednesday, the Sanyukt Kisan Morcha had asked the government to not repeat the proposal of ''meaningless'' amendments that they have already rejected but to come up with a ''concrete offer'' in writing for the resumption of talks. Prime Minister Narendra Modi Friday squarely blamed those with a political agenda for the deadlock in the Centre's talks with the protesting farmers and asserted that his government was willing to hold dialogues with all, including those staunchly opposed to it, as long as talks are based on farm issues, facts and logic.
Enacted in September, the three farm laws have been projected by the Centre as major reforms in the agriculture sector that will remove the middlemen and allow farmers to sell their products anywhere in the country. However, the protesting farmers have expressed apprehension that the new laws would pave the way for eliminating the safety cushion of the MSP and do away with the ''mandi'' (wholesale market) system, leaving them at the mercy of big corporates.
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