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As farmers’ stir nears one month, Centre makes fresh appeal for talks; unions want repeal of laws in agenda

Farmers protests, Day 29: No headway has been made so far despite five rounds of talks between the government and the unions, with the farmers insisting on a repeal of the three laws. 

By: Express Web Desk | New Delhi | Updated: December 24, 2020 10:51:32 pm
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As the farmers continue to brave the biting cold at Delhi borders protesting against the three new agriculture laws, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will interact with farmers from six states on Friday. On the occasion, PM Modi will digitally deposit a total of Rs 18,000 crore in the bank accounts of nine crore farmers under the Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi scheme.

“The farmers will share their experiences with PM-KISAN and also on various other initiatives taken by the government for the welfare of farmers,” the PMO said in a statement. Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar will also be present on the occasion.

With the farmers’ protests nearing a month, the Centre once again made an appeal to the protesting farmers to decide on the date and time for a fresh round of talks over the controversial laws. In a three-page letter to the farmers, the government said, “Govt is committed to reaching logical solutions of the issues raised by you.”

Farmers at Ghazipur border protest site.

Protesting farmer unions, however, said that the government’s latest letter for talks is nothing but a propaganda against the peasants and asked it to put the scrapping of the three recent farm laws in the agenda to resume the parley.

Lending support to the farmers’ agitation, a Congress delegation met President Ram Nath Kovind and sought withdrawal of the farm laws. Rahul Gandhi, who was part of the delegation, told the President that the laws were “anti-farmer” and would make farmers suffer huge losses.

“We took crores of signatures… the voices of farmers. The PM will have to listen to them. The entire country is watching. It is cold, and the farmers are suffering, dying. I am warning you. Nobody can stand against the farmers,” Gandhi said speaking to the media outside the Rashtrapati Bhavan. “India is now an imaginary democracy,” the Congress leader said in a tweet after he said he took the voice of the farmers to the president.

Tomar, on the other hand, met Kisaan Mazdoor Sangh members from Baghpat. While stating that the union submitted a letter to him in support of Centre’s farm laws, Tomar also claimed that farmers told him that no one from Congress came to them to get their signature.

“Whatever Rahul Gandhi says, even Congress doesn’t take it seriously. Today when he went to register his protest with President with signatures, these farmers told me that no one from Congress came to them to get their signature,” Tomar was quoted as saying by news agency ANI. “They’ve told me that govt shouldn’t buckle under any pressure to make amendments to Farm bills.”

Earlier, Gandhi had attempted to lead a delegation of Congress leaders to the Rashtrapati Bhavan but was stopped by the Delhi Police. Several leaders including general secretaries Priyanka Gandhi Vadra and K C Venugopal, and senior leader Randeep Singh Surjewala were detained for violating prohibitory orders.

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No headway has been made so far despite five rounds of talks between the government and the unions, with the farmers insisting on a repeal of the three laws.

Centre writes to farmers, says it won’t be logical to discuss MSP-related demand

In a three-page letter written to 40 farmer leaders, Joint Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare Vivek Aggarwal said, “I again request you that the government has been discussing all issues with open heart and good intention to end the protest, and will continue to do so. Kindly suggest a date and time (for the next round of talks).”

However, the government made it clear that it would not be “logical” to include in the demands any new demand related to minimum support price (MSP), which is out of the purview of the laws. Aggarwal asked the unions to list out details of other issues they want to discuss. The talks will be held at Vigyan Bhawan in New Delhi at a ministerial level, he said.

However, the unions said the minimum support price (MSP) cannot be separated from the demand of repealing the contentious agriculture laws, asserting that the issue of a legal guarantee for the MSP is a key part of their agitation.

PM’s charge of lying to farmers baseless: Opposition parties

Hitting out at PM Modi, the opposition parties said that the allegations being made by the PM—that opposition parties are “repeatedly lying” to farmers about new farm laws— are baseless.

In a joint statement Congress, NCP, DMK, PAGD, RJD, SP, CPI(M), CPI, CPI(ML), AIFB and RSP leaders said, “We register our strong protest against baseless allegations being made by PM accusing opposition parties of “repeatedly lying” to farmers about new farm laws and “using them for their politics”. PM’s accusations are a complete travesty of truth. We demand that the present Agri Laws be repealed along with the Electricity (Amendment) Bill 2020. Following this, discussions on agrarian reforms must be held by the Central government with the farmers and all stakeholders.”

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Dushyant says farm laws need amendments

Haryana Deputy Chief Minister and Dushyant Chautala said new central farm laws need many amendments and urged protesting farmers to give “concrete suggestions”.

The Jannayak Janta Party (JJP) leader reiterated that he will tender his resignation the day he feels he is unable to ensure minimum support price (MSP) to farmers in Haryana, news agency PTI reported. Addressing a press conference in Chandigarh, the leader of the BJP ally in Haryana, said, “I believe that many amendments should be there. On this, we have given many suggestions to the Centre earlier and they too were agreeable on many suggestions.”

“I think the Centre is ready to incorporate those amendments,” he added. Chautala also said the Centre was repeatedly inviting the farmer unions to talks, and it was the responsibility of these outfits to give “concrete suggestions” regarding their demands. “I think the biggest demand of the Arhitiyas (commission agents) too is that in open market and in mandis, tax should be at par. If that happens, our marketing board and mandis will flourish as they have been going on. And if the Centre is ready to give written assurance on MSP, I think biggest demand of farmers is fulfilled,” he added.

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Farmers dig up helipad in Haryana deputy CM’s constituency

Farmers waiving black flags on Tuesday dug up a portion of a helipad in Haryana Deputy Chief Minister Dushyant Chautala’s constituency, later claiming that their protest had forced him to cancel his visit there.

Police, however, said the protest by a small group of farmers took place hours after they were informed that the visit had been cancelled. His party said there was no visit planned.

A small hole was dug up by the protesters at the temporary helipad, police said.

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Farmers’ body moves SC challenging farm laws, seeks impleadment in pending matter

A farmers’ body, Bharatiya Kisan Union (Lok Shakti), has moved the Supreme Court challenging the three new farm laws and sought impleadment in the matter pending in the apex court, reported news agency PTI.

In an application seeking impleadment in the pending petition, the union has claimed that the new farm laws “promote corporate interest” and are not concerned with the “interest of farmers”. The plea alleged that these acts are “unconstitutional” and anti-farmer as it would “dismantle the Agriculture Produce Market Committee (APMC) system intended to ensure fair prices for farm products”.

“The implementation of the acts in its current form will spell disaster for the farming community by opening a parallel market which is unregulated and gives enough place for exploitation of the Indian farmers,” the application said. It stated that the farmers are “very much scared that these acts also lead to corporatisation of the entire agriculture market and the prices can be driven up or down by the corporates”.

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