The Samyukt Kisan Morcha, which has been spearheading the farmer protests at the borders of Delhi for more than a year now, said Tuesday it had received a written proposal from the government which was discussed at a meeting of 32 farm unions at the Singhu border protest site. Indicating that most demands had been met, the SKM said it was seeking “further clarifications on a few points” and would meet again Wednesday, hoping for a “positive response” from the government.
Maintaining that it had not yet taken a decision to end the agitation which forced the government to repeal the three agriculture laws that triggered the protests, the SKM said it “received a written draft proposal from the Government of India. The proposal was constructively discussed by the farm leaders… The Morcha will seek further clarifications on a few points of the Government’s proposal, and will reconvene at 2 pm tomorrow for further discussion. The Morcha hopes for a positive response from the Government.”
The SKM said that according to the five-point proposal from the government, a committee would be formed on minimum support price (MSP) and would have representatives from Central, state governments, agriculture scientists and farmer representatives including SKM.
Ashok Dhawale, who is in a five-member committee of representatives named by the SKM, said: “The talks were constructive. We welcome the fact that the government has made a written proposal. The unions deliberated on the proposals and had certain doubts and recommendations… but they were all very constructive. One concern was that in the proposed MSP committee, it is a possibility that some farm associations, who were supporting the three farm laws and opposing MSP earlier, may be made part of that committee. The representatives in the MSP committee should be only from SKM.”
SKM member Shiv Kumar Kakka too said: “In its offer, the government has said that representatives of the SKM along with other farm organisations’ representatives will be part of the committee on MSP… We have an objection to that. Our objection is that these other organisations are the same which were against us during the protest. They are government-sponsored. If we sit with them to decide the MSP, they will not let it happen. Those who did nothing, why are you including them with us? We want a separate committee for MSP.”
Balbir Singh Rajewal, president of BKU (Rajewal), said: “For one year, andolan hum ladte rahe… if the MSP committee is filled with groups who have been supporting the government to push these laws, it will create problems. So, we need clarity on this from the government.”
On withdrawal of police cases lodged against farmers and their supporters in several states, Dhawale said the government had proposed that cases will be withdrawn after the agitation is called off. “There is suspicion among farmers that cases need to be withdrawn in a time-bound manner. This is a question of trust. The government should immediately withdraw all the cases that have been lodged against farmers in the entire country… in Haryana alone, 48,000 cases have been registered. Otherwise, it has often happened (as in Mandsaur) that the agitation ended, but cases are still going on,” he said.
SKM leaders said that in the proposal, the government had also agreed to provide compensation to the kin of farmers who died during the agitation. “Regarding compensation, we demand that the Centre provide compensation along the lines of the Punjab model which provides Rs 5 lakh and a job to the kin of the farmer. This, we feel, would provide some modicum of justice to the farmers who died in this agitation,” Dhawale said.
BKU leader Gurnam Singh Chaduni said: “If the government agrees to announce compensation for all… like the Punjab government has… toh maamla nipatt sakta hai (then the matter can be sorted out).”
The Centre, in its proposal, also gave an assurance that it will resolve the issue of the Electricity (Amendment) Bill only after discussions with all stakeholders. The SKM said it wants the Bill withdrawn. On stubble burning, the SKM said the government had agreed to decriminalise some sections in the law related to setting up of a commission for air quality regulation, the modalities of which are being discussed.
— With Harikishan Sharma, New Delhi
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