Centre agrees to withdraw cases, farm stir set to be called off today

Following a meeting of farm unions, the SKM said that if it receives a formal communication from the Government authorising its demands by Thursday noon, it is likely that the “agitation would be called off or temporarily suspended”.

Senior BKU leader Gurnam Singh Chaduni, SKM member Shiv Kumar Kakkaji and farmer leader Yudhvir Singh address a press conference. (Express photo by Prem Nath Pandey)

THE SAMYUKTA Kisan Morcha (SKM) will meet Thursday noon at the Singhu border of Delhi to take a “formal decision” to lift the year-long protest against the farm laws after the 32 unions under its ambit accepted a revised draft proposal from the Government, including the unconditional withdrawal of all police cases lodged against protesters during the agitation.

In the revised proposal Wednesday, the Government said that in light of the concessions proposed, there was no justification for the agitation to continue and requested the unions to call it off. Following a meeting of farm unions, the SKM said that if it receives a formal communication from the Government authorising its demands by Thursday noon, it is likely that the “agitation would be called off or temporarily suspended”.

According to the amended proposal, the Centre will also appeal to other states to withdraw all cases lodged against protesters during the agitation. Sources told The Indian Express that the governments of Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Haryana — all BJP-ruled states — have agreed to simultaneously withdraw all cases lodged against the protesters with immediate effect.

All the cases lodged against protesters and their supporters in Delhi and by different central agencies, such as NIA and ED, will also be withdrawn, sources said.

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Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) leader Rakesh Tikait said: “The Government has agreed to withdraw all the cases…The agitation is heading towards success.”

On the issue of a proposed committee for minimum support price (MSP), farm leaders said the Government has clarified that it will include representatives from SKM, too. “The Government has also provided clarity on the committee’s mandate, which would be to ensure how MSP can be given to all farmers,” said Atamjit Singh, another BKU leader.

In a statement Wednesday, the SKM confirmed that it has “received a revised draft proposal from the Government” and “a consensus has been arrived at within SKM, accepting the proposal”. “Now, a formal communication signed on the Government’s letterhead is awaited. SKM will meet again tomorrow at 12 noon, at Singhu Border, to take a formal decision thereafter to lift the morchas,” it said.


The big demand

Some farm leaders have been apprehensive of calling off the protest without cases against protesters being dropped first since they fear the government could go back on its word. The Centre’s revised proposal, seen as a step towards addressing those concerns, appears to have brought different farm unions on the same page.

BKU leader Gurnam Singh Chaduni said the Government has “moved two steps forward”. “A consensus has been reached among SKM regarding the revised draft proposal sent by the Government. There is an agreement on demands. As of now, we have not taken a decision to suspend the protests,” he said.

Ashok Dawale, who is a member of the five-member committee formed to discuss pending demands with the Centre, said: “After we pointed out certain objections in yesterday’s proposal from the Centre, talks with the Government continued through the night and today morning”.

“The five-member committee received a revised proposal, where some of our concerns were addressed. As per the revised proposal, the Government has agreed to unconditionally withdraw all police cases lodged during the course of the agitation, which was the main point of contention,” he said.

According to Dawale, the Government has also agreed to provide compensation to the families of farmers who died during the agitation. “The Haryana and UP governments have informally agreed…There is still a grey area in Haryana regarding whether a family member of a martyred farmer will be given a job as has been announced by the Punjab government,” he said.

The Punjab government has announced Rs 5 lakh and a job each to the families of farmers who had died during the agitation.

On the Electricity (Amendment) Bill, the new draft states that the Government will hold discussions with all stakeholders and SKM before introducing the Bill. There was a status quo on stubble burning in the revised draft — the Government had agreed to decriminalise certain sections and removed criminal liability.

Earlier Wednesday, the five-member committee, also comprising Yudhvir Singh, Balbir Singh Rajewal, Shiv Kumar Kakka and Gurnam Singh Chaduni, met at the All India Kisan Sabha’s office in Delhi to deliberate on the amendments, including some “sticking points”. “The ball is in the Government’s court. How it acts will be clear tomorrow,” Yudhvir Singh said.

Describing the latest development a “victory of farmers”, Swaraj India leader Yogendra Yadav said: “There is some light finally at the end of a very long tunnel…All that we are waiting for now is for the same proposals on a letterhead of the Government. If that happens, tomorrow we should be able to announce at noon that we are now concluding our morchas.”

Tikait, meanwhile, claimed that the “issue of Lakhimpur Kheri was also discussed”. The sacking of Union MoS Ajay Mishra in connection with the Lakhimpur Kheri incident, when four farm protesters were killed after being hit by a convoy including a vehicle owned by the Minister, was among the six demands in a letter written by farm unions to the Government last month.

However, the issue was not mentioned in the two draft proposals discussed between farm unions and the Government over the past two days. “The matter will be discussed tomorrow,” said an SKM leader.

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