The Centre on Sunday extended an invitation, second time in five days, to Punjab’s farmers’ unions, who have been protesting against the new farm laws, for holding talks on issue on October 14. The unions, however, said they need some clarifications and added that a decision on whether to accept the invitation will be taken at a meeting in on October 13.
“We have received an invitation for a meeting on October 14. Though the invite has come from the Union agriculture secretary, it mentions that the central government wants to talk to farmers. The farmers’ unions will decide whether to go to Delhi for talks in a meeting slated for October 13,” said Jagmohan Singh, general secretary of Bharatiya Kisan Union (Dakaunda).
Sanjay Agarwal, Secretary of the Department of Agricultural, Cooperation and Farmer Welfare in the Union government, earlier in the day, sent emails to the leaders of the 29 of the total 30 protesting farm unions inviting them for a talk on the three farm laws.
Underlining that farmers in Punjab have been protesting for the past few days due to farm-related subjects, the letter says, “Indian government is always serious about agriculture. This is the reason that the Centre Government is keen to talk to you.”
“Please attend the meeting on October 14, 2020 at 11.30 am in room number 142, Krishi Mantralaya, New Delhi for doing a discussion on these subjects,” the letter adds.
The fresh invitation comes days after the Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Committee — an umbrella body under which the protesting farm unions have united — rejected a similar letter by Agarwal on October 7 inviting the farm leaders to Delhi for talks the next day. Agarwal’s letter mentioned that the Government of India had undertaken agricultural marketing reforms to provide more choice to farmers for higher price realisation for farmers’ produce. These reforms will provide better marketing avenues for farmers’ produce. The letter added that the department would organise a conference in which Agarwal and his team would address the concerns of the farmers’ organisations regarding the impact and implementation of these landmark reforms.
The unions had refused to be part of the conference saying that they will not talk to an officer, but are ready for a meeting if a proper invitation comes from the Union agriculture minister or the Prime Minister.
Talking about the fresh invitation, Joginder Singh Ugrahan, president of BKU (Ugrahan), said, “We need to know who will be holding the discussions with us in this meeting, what is the agenda of the meeting. Only then will we decide whether to go or not. Our unions will collectively take a call on this.”
Patiala added that the joint meeting of all the 29 unions on October 13 is likely to be held in Chandigarh. “If we decide to go, we will move ahead from Chandigarh itself. We have asked Agriculture Secretary to clarify on a few queries. We hope that he reverts by Monday. Accordingly we will decide on October 13,” he added.
Meanwhile, Jagnohan Singh said that 30 farmers’ unions had joined hands to form the Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Committee and not 31 as they had initially claimed. “One union’s name was written twice erroneously,” he said.
“We had not sent the name of BKU (Lakhowal) to the officials. BKU (Lakhowal) had moved the Supreme Court on its own challenging the three central laws without consulting us. Hence, we have suspended that union from our group for the time being. We have told BKU (Lakhowal) chief that he can be part of the common platform only when he produces a letter from the apex court stating that the petition has been withdrawn. Though BKU (Lakhowal) president Ajmer Singh Lakhowal has announced that he has withdrawn the petition, he has not produced any written documents to support his claims,” Jagmohan added.
Sunday was the 11th day of indefinite protests by farmers in Punjab over farm laws. The are also holding rail roko protets at 33 places. The farmers will take a call on relaxing rail roko on October 15. The farmers maintained that the Punjab State Power Corporation Limited (PSPCL) has enough coal supplies and they can buy cheap power from the national grid. Hence they should not create pressure on farmers. They also stated that they don’t need diammonium phosphate (DAP) for the coming three weeks. Therefore, this too was an undue pressure for lifting rail roko.
Surjit Kumar Jyani, chairman of BJP panel formed to talk with farmers and ahrtiyas, said, “Government is serious about farmers and they are keen to talk to them. When the letter says that Centre is keen to talk, it indicates that someone from the government (minister) will talk to them. We are hopeful that issues of farmers will be redressed soon.”