A DAY after the government invited farmers’ representatives for a new round of talks to break the deadlock with protesters over its agriculture laws, and urged them to choose a date, farm union leaders accused it of wasting time and said they would meet on Tuesday to decide on a response.
Dr Darshan Pal, the president of Krantikari Kisan Union, who received the invitation in the form of a letter from the Union Agriculture Ministry, told The Indian Express that the government is “not sincere” in its efforts. “We have already told the government that no amendment is acceptable,” he said, while reiterating the demand for the laws to be repealed.
Jamhoori Kisan Sabha general secretary Kulwant Singh Sandhu said representatives of various unions will meet on Tuesday to decide their next step. Asked about the letter, Sandhu said: “They have just given a 5-page letter describing what happened in earlier meetings. This is time-pass tactics.”
Sandhu is one of the 39 farm leaders who were copied on the Centre’s letter that was addressed to Pal.
“The letter indicates that the government does not want to call a meeting. It is just going through a formality. The government is not serious about holding the next round of talks, otherwise it could have specified the time and venue as it had done on earlier occasions,” said Shiv Kumar Kakka, national president, Rashtriya Kisan Mazdoor Mahasangh.
Kakka said the Samyukta Kisan Morcha, an umbrella body of 40 protesting unions, will decide on a response.
Jagmohan Singh Patiala, general secretary, Bharti Kisan Union Ekta (Dakaunda), said there was “no need for such a long letter”. “We had already clarified that we will only settle for a repeal of the three laws and the legalisation of MSP for all crops. The Government should focus on these demands instead of beating around the bush. We will decide on the Government’s proposal in tomorrow’s meeting,” he said.
Baldev Singh Nihalgarh, the general secretary of Kul Hind Kisan Sabha (Punjab), termed the Centre’s letter as “nothing but the insult of farmers and their protest in the severe cold”. “If the Government really wants to resolve the issue, it should accept our demands. We will send a letter to the Government and then see whether it will invite us for talks on our demands,” he said.
Sukhdev Singh Kokrikalan, the general secretary of BKU (Ugrahan), which the largest farmers’ union in Punjab, said they met representatives of the Punjab Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Committee (PKMSC) Monday and decided not to attend any meeting with the Government until it accepts their demands. “But we will honour any decision taken by the 32 unions in their meeting tomorrow,” he said.
The All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee (AIKSCC), another umbrella body, sent a letter to the Agriculture Ministry saying that they “never declined to participate in the talks”.
On Sunday, Vivek Aggarwal, joint secretary in the Ministry, sought a date for the next round of talks in the letter, “according to your convenience, so that the matter can be resolved by holding a meeting again” in Delhi.
The letter came in response to Pal’s email on December 16, informing the Government of the unions’ decision to reject the Centre’s proposal of concessions regarding changes in the farm laws.
The written proposal was sent a day after Union Home Minister Amit Shah held a meeting with representatives of 13 farm unions on December 8. The previous five rounds of talks remained inconclusive.
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