The Centre Tuesday extended a fresh invitation — the third in a month — to Punjab farmer bodies protesting against the three agri laws for talks with a two-member ministerial delegation on November 13 in Delhi.
Though BJP leaders had extended a verbal invitation on November 9, Secretary, Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare, Sudhansu Pandey sent a letter inviting the heads of 29 farm unions for talks with Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar and Railway Minister Piyush Goyal.
“For the past many days, aandolan is going on in Punjab on farmer related subjects. The Department of Agriculture is always concerned towards the issues and welfare of farmers. At the same time even the Railways department is keen to provide smooth services in Punjab. Hence, in order to discuss your issues, Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar and Union Railways Minister Piyush Goyal invite you for a meeting,” read the letter, drafted in Hindi, and sent to presidents or general secretaries of the farmer organisations.
Bharatiya Kisan Union (Rajewal) president Balbir Singh Rajewal said farmers’ organisations have received an invitation. “We are always open for talks. The ceantral government, however, took too long to invite us on a proper platform,” said Rajewal.
The representatives of the 29 farmer outfits will be meeting on November 12 at Chandigarh’s Kisan Bhawan to decide on who all will be going to Delhi. Dr Darshan Pal, president, Kirti Kisan Union, said, “We need to decide who will be our spokespersons and what agendas we will present before the ministers. We want to be very specific at the meeting”.
“Let’s see what comes out of this meeting. Farm laws is an issue of the whole country and not just Punjab. We hope that Punjab farmers will take the lead in getting justice for crores of farmers across the country,” said Jagmohan Singh Patiala, general secretary of BKU Dakaunda.
While Punjab BJP chief Ashwani Sharma welcomed the decision of the Centre, Surjit Kumar Jyani, the chairman of eight-member BJP panel formed to reach out to farmers, said, “We are hopeful that a positive decision will come out before Diwali and farmers will lift their dharnas and trains will be back on tracks in Punjab.”
The meeting comes at time when there is a standoff between the Centre and the Punjab government over resuming the train services in state. The train services in Punjab have been suspended since September 24, when farmers started their “rail roko” agitation against the central laws. While farmers claim to have lifted their dharnas from rail tracks for the resumption of freight trains, the Centre says they will either run both the goods and the passengers trains or none. They have also demanded an assurance of safety and security for trains and the staff.
This is the third time Centre has invited the farmers for talks. The first invitation came for a meeting on October 8 which was rejected by farmers. That meeting had been called inform the farmers about reforms being brought about with the the help of three agriculture laws. A second meeting was called on October 14. It was chaired by Secretary, Agriculture, Sanjay Agarwal. Representatives of several farmers’ organisations from Punjab had walked out of the meeting and had accused the government of adopting “double standards” with no minister present to hear them out.
Meanwhile, more than 250 farmer outfits from across country, under the banner of All India Kisan Sangrash Coordination committee, said their next programme of ‘Delhi Chalo’ is scheduled for November 26-27. “It is not a 2-day programme. Those two days are for farm outfits to reach Delhi from all parts of India. There is no date to come back from Delhi. We will organise a pakka morcha at Delhi’s Ram Leela ground if our demands are not met,” added Jagmohan Singh.
Farmers in Punjab have expressed apprehension that the new laws would pave a way for the dismantling of the minimum support price system, leaving them at the “mercy” of big corporates. They have been demanding that these new laws be repealed.
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