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Farmers protest Day 22: Narendra Tomar writes letter to farmers; SC suggests putting new laws on hold

Tomar's open letter comes soon after he met Home Minister and senior BJP leader Amit Shah along with Union ministers Nirmala Sitharaman and Piyush Goyal to discuss the ongoing farmers' agitation.

By: Express Web Desk | New Delhi |
Updated: December 17, 2020 9:23:37 pm
Farm laws, Farmers protest, HaryanaProtesting farmers listen to a speaker at the Delhi- Haryana border. (AP)

The Supreme Court on Thursday acknowledged the right of farmers to non-violent protests and suggested the idea of putting on hold the contentious farm laws even as Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar wrote a open letter to the farmers with an eight-point assurance.

In the letter, Tomar reiterated Centre’s promise of keeping in mind the welfare of farmers, whose protest at Delhi’s borders is now on its 22nd day, and said that government was ready to give a written assurance regarding the MSP.

“Following our call of Sabka Saath Sabka Vikas and Sabka Vishwas, our government, under the leadership of Narendra Modi, has tried to serve the interests of all without any discrimination. History of the last 6 years is a witness to this,” Tomar said.

He also said several farmers had also come out in support of these laws. “Several farmer unions have come out in support of the recently passed farm laws. News of farmers benefitting from the new laws have already started appearing from different parts of the country,” Tomar wrote in the letter.

New Delhi: Union Minister for Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare Narendra Singh Tomar during a press conference, in New Delhi. (PTI)

Tomar has been at the forefront of leading the negotiation with about 40 farmer unions along with Food Minister Piyush Goyal and Minister of State for Commerce Som Parkash. In his eight-page long letter, Tomar also said that along with the provision of MSP, the system of state-run Agriculture Produce Market Committees (APMC) would also continue.

Tomar’s open letter comes soon after he met Home Minister and senior BJP leader Amit Shah along with Union ministers Nirmala Sitharaman and Piyush Goyal to discuss the ongoing farmers’ agitation. According to PTI, the meeting was held at the BJP head office in New Delhi and was also attended by the party’s general secretaries CT Ravi, Dushyant Gautam and Arun Singh among others. It lasted for more than an hour.

Farmers have right to protest, suggests Centre put laws on hold: Supreme Court

Earlier today, the Supreme Court acknowledged the right of farmers to non-violent protests and suggested that the Centre put on hold the implementation of the three contentious farm laws as it was thinking of setting up an “impartial and independent” panel of agriculture experts, which may include experts like P Sainath, and farmer unions to resolve the impasse.

New Delhi: A farmer at Singhu border during a protest against Centre’s agri-laws, in New Delhi, Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2020. (PTI)

However, the Centre said farmers would not come forward for negotiations if the implementation of farm laws was put on hold.

Heading a three-judge bench hearing a clutch of petitions seeking removal of farmers protesting at the borders of Delhi, Chief Justice of India S A Bobde said it would order for serving of notices to protesting farmer unions and give them liberty to approach the vacation bench.

“A protest is constitutional till it does not destroy property or endanger life. Centre and farmers have to talk. We are thinking of an impartial and independent committee before whom both parties can give its side of story,” the CJI said.

Further clearing the outset of the day’s hearing, the top court also said that it will not decide the validity of law today. “The only thing which we will decide is the issue of protest and the right to move freely,” the bench, also comprising Justices A S Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian, said.

Arvind Kejriwal, AAP MLAs tear copies of farm laws in Delhi Assembly

In a show of solidarity with the agitating farmers, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, along with other Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) MLAs, tore up copies of the Centre’s three new farm laws in the state Assembly on Thursday.

arvind kejriwal, arvind kejriwal tears farm laws, arvind kejriwal farm laws, farmers protest, indian express Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal tears the copy of new farm laws in Delhi Assembly on Thursday. (PTI Photo)

Addressing the Delhi Assembly, Kejriwal alleged that the laws “have been made for electoral funding of the BJP and not the farmers”. “I am pained that I have to do this. I did not intend to, but I cannot betray the farmers of my country who have been sleeping on the streets in the cold when the temperature is just 2 degrees Celsius,” Kejriwal said.

“I am a citizen of this country first, a chief minister later. This assembly rejects the three laws and appeals to the central government to meet the demands of farmers,” he said.

The AAP leader also said that 20 farmers have died so far during the protest and asked the Centre when it will “wake up”.

“I want to ask Centre how many sacrifices farmers will have to make, to get their voices heard. Every farmer has become Bhagat Singh. The government is saying that they are reaching out to farmers and trying to explain the benefits of Farm Bills. UP CM told farmers that they’ll benefit from these bills as their land won’t be taken away. Is it a benefit?” Kejriwal said in the Assembly.

After the assembly passed the resolution by voice vote, AAP MLAs trooped into the well of the House, tore off copies of the laws and raised slogans demanding that the government repeal them.

Another farmer dies near Tikri border

A 38-year-old farmer from Punjab was found dead at a protest site near the Tikri border on Thursday morning, police said.

Jai Singh, a resident of Tungwali village in Bathinda district, and his brother had been part of the farmers’ protest at the Haryana-Delhi border against the Centre’s three farm laws for the last several days, PTI reported.

Around 20 farmers, many of them are from Punjab, have so far died either of natural causes or in road accidents.

A police official said that the exact cause of Singh’s death could only be ascertained after a post mortem.

Singh’s brother, however, suspects that he might have died of a heart attack. His was sent to the Bahadurgarh civil hospital in Jhajjar district.

According to Bharatiya Kisan Union (Ekta Ugrahan), around 20 farmers, many of them are from Punjab, have so far died either of natural causes or in road accidents.

Punjab Cong protest at Jantar Mantar

While farmers have barred politicians from their protest stage, leaders of the Punjab Congress have been sitting on a day-night dharna at Jantar Mantar since December 6.

Three Congress MPs and one MLA from Punjab have been sleeping on the roadside as part of their protest. These protesting leaders include Ludhiana MP Ravneet Singh Bittu, Amritsar MP Gurjeet Singh Aujla and Khadoor Sahib MP Jasbir Singh Dimpa and Kulbir Singh Zira, the MLA from Zira constituency in Ferozepur district.

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