Union Defence Minister Rajnath Singh Sunday said attempts to “mislead” farmers, who are protesting at Delhi’s borders for over a month now, would not succeed. Addressing a state-level function through video-conference to mark the third anniversary of the Jai Ram Thakur-led BJP government in Himachal Pradesh, he said the new laws would raise the income of farmers, but the Congress was misleading them.
Meanwhile, farmer unions, under the banner of Sanyukt Kisan Morcha, said talks with the government would be held at 11 am Tuesday. According to the unions, the meeting agenda will be: modalities to be adopted to repeal the three central farm Acts; mechanisms to be adopted to make remunerative MSP, recommended by the National Commission on Farmers, a legally guaranteed entitlement for all farmers and all agricultural commodities; amendments to be made and notified in the ‘Commission for the Air Quality Management in National Capital Region and Adjoining Areas Ordinance, 2020’ to exclude farmers from penal provisions of the ordinance; and, changes to be made in the draft Electricity (Amendment) Bill, 2020 to protect farmer interests.
No ‘mai ka lal’ can take away land from farmers: Rajnath Singh
Rajnath Singh said the Centre never intended to scrap minimum support price (MSP) and no ‘Mai Ka Lal‘ could take away land from the farmers even as protests against the agriculture reform laws entered its fifth week. Targeting the Opposition, Rajnath, who has been in the forefront of the government’s outreach to farmers, said it was unfortunate that those who had zero knowledge about farming were “misleading innocent farmers”.
“It’s unfortunate that those who don’t even know about farming, are misleading innocent farmers. This govt never intended to stop MSP, neither it will in future. Mandis will also be maintained. No ‘Mai Ka Lal (son of mother)‘ can take away land from farmers,” Singh said while addressing a state-level function to mark the third anniversary of the Jai Ram Thakur-led BJP government in Himachal Pradesh.
#WATCH ये दुष्प्रचार किया गया कि किसानों की जमीन कॉन्ट्रैक्ट फार्मिंग के माध्यम से छीन ली जाएगी, कोई भी मां का लाल किसानों से उनकी जमीन नहीं छीन सकता है। ये मुकम्मल व्यवस्था कृषि कानूनों में की गई है: हिमाचल प्रदेश सरकार के तीन साल पूरे होने पर आयोजित कार्यक्रम में रक्षा मंत्री pic.twitter.com/OrLOYNsnuI
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The Union minister said the new laws would raise the income of farmers, but the Congress was misleading them. “The income of farmers will double with the enactment of farm laws. It takes some time to see the impact of comprehensive reforms,” he said.
“Be it the 1991 economic reforms brought in by the then finance minister Manmohan Singh or other ones enacted during the Vajpayee government, it took four-five years to see their positive results,” he added.
He reiterated that farmers should “experiment” with the new laws for “one-two years” before seeking any change. “Similarly, if we can’t wait for four-five years, we can wait for at least two years to witness positive results of the agriculture reforms carried out by the Narendra Modi government,” the Defence Minister added.
A 63-year-old contract farmer, who was also a member of one of the protesting unions on Delhi’s borders, died by suicide on Sunday morning. The victim, identified as Amarjeet Singh Rai, consumed sulphas tablets, which are used to protect crops from rodents, near Pakora Chowk, the protest site of BKU Ugrahan on the Tikri border. The site of the incident was barely 200 metres away from the stage erected for the farm union’s president Joginder Singh Ugrahan.
“Around 8.48 am (on Sunday), he rang me up to say that he had consumed sulphas (tablets). As I reached him at 8.55 am, he handed me two typed letters before falling unconscious. We rushed him to the civil hospital in Bahadurgarh. From there, he was shifted to PGI, Rohtak where he was declared dead,” said Ram Kumar Munshi, who worked with him and had been camping at the Tikri border along with him since December 16. He was also a practising lawyer.
One of letters he handed before passing out was addressed to the sub-divisional magistrate, Jalalabad. Drafted by the Bar Association of Jalalabad, it extended support to the farmers’ protest for withdrawal of the contentious agriculture Bills. The other one was titled, ‘Letter to Modi, the Dictator’. While he had arrived at the Tikri border on December 16, the typed letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, bearing his signature, was dated December 18.
Rai, who had three decades of legal practice and also engaged in contract farming, was associated with the Ugrahan group for a long time. His letter to the PM is being termed by the union as his ‘suicide note’.
“The people India has given you absolute majority and power and have put their faith in you to strive for their welfare and prosperity. They had expected a better future with you as prime minister. But it is with great sorrow and pain that I have to write that you have become the PM for the likes of Ambani and Adani. Farmers and labourers are feeling cheated by your black farm Bills and fearing the worst. People are on the streets, not for votes but in the interest of their livelihoods, families and future generations. In order to cater to the interests of some Capitalists, you are bent on destroying the common man and agriculture, which is the economic backbone of India. Please don’t snatch food from the mouths of farmers and labourers just to make some Capitalists happy. Don’t force them to consume sulphas. You have not only betrayed the people but also your allies such as SAD (Shiromani Akali Dal),” the letter reads.
Govt must earn farmers’ trust: Congress MPs
Two Congress MPs from Punjab said the Centre should withdraw the recent stubble burning ordinance and the Electricity Amendment Bill before its next round of talks with the farmers’ unions so that the dialogue over the laws can progress smoothly, news agency PTI reported. The government must earn trust of the protesting farmers, said parliamentarians Ravneet Singh Bittu and Jasbir Singh Gill who have been staging a sit-in at Jantar Mantarin Delhi for three weeks now in solidarity with the ongoing agitation.
Addressing a press conference at the Congress headquarters here, Bittu said, “The government should stop being arrogant and should repeal the laws relating to power dues and stubble burning penalty.” The two Congress MPs from Punjab alleged that the government is being insensitive towards farmers and asked how many of them would have to sacrifice their lives before the issue is resolved.
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal attacked the central government over the three contentious farm laws, saying that only corporates, and not farmers, would be benefitted from them.
Addressing the farmers at ‘Safar-e-Shahadat’ Kirtan Darbar, commemorating the martyrdom of Mata Gujri and the chaar sahibzaadas at Singhu border, Kejriwal said, “The Centre is not talking about the benefits of the laws to the farmers, all they are saying is it will not cause any harm to them… Only corporates will reap their benefits.”
He slammed the NDA leaders who have been assuring the farmers that minimum support price (MSP) will not be taken away from the peasants. “They say the laws will not take away farmers’ lands, or MSP… are these benefits? These were already there… Why’ve you brought the laws then? Tear and throw it away,” the Delhi CM said, adding that he has not met a single NDA leader who can explain how the agriculture laws can help the farmers.
Intensifying their agitation against the new farm laws, farmer unions in Haryana announced that they will continue to allow toll-free movement of vehicles on highways until the Centre accepts their demands.
Initially, farmers said no toll fee would be collected on highways for three days, from December 25 to December 27. But with a large number of people taking to the highways daily to stage protests at toll plazas, the agitators today announced to make it free for an indefinite period.
Haryana Bhartiya Kisan Union (BKU) president Gurnam Singh Chaduni said, “Today, we went to many toll plazas. There was an opinion of the common man that these toll plazas be made free permanently. In our national executive too, we have decided to make the toll plaza free for the movement of vehicles till the government doesn’t accept our demands. To ensure smooth functioning of agitation at toll plazas, the committees should be formed. The committees consisting of five to 15 members at every toll plaza will talk to the officers, if needed.”
Rajasthan Congress to hold dialogue with farmers
The Congress has planned to hold dialogue with farmers in every Assembly constituency in Rajasthan from December 28 to 30 to make them aware about the Centre’s three farm laws which the party said was against the interests of the peasantry, news agency PTI reported.
Congress state president Govind Singh Dotasra said the Rajasthan government is with the protesting farmers and support their demand for repeal of the laws. He said that the Congress will hold dialogue with farmers in every Assembly constituency of the state with an aim to make them aware of the laws and support the ongoing agitation.
Dotasra said that state ministers will also hold press conferences to make the farmers aware of the “anti-farmer” laws and to highlight various achievements of the state government.
Large groups of farmers at the Singhu and Ghazipur borders began banging utensils during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s monthly ‘Mann Ki Baat’ radio address. On Sunday morning, large processions of farmers camping along Delhi’s borders were seen marching, while striking utensils and chanting slogans against PM Modi and the Central government.
Farmers protesting against the Centre’s new farm laws at the Singhu border banged utensils. Farm leaders had urged people to beat utensils during PM’s ‘Mann Ki Baat’ radio programme, the same way the prime minister had asked people in March to beat ‘thalis’ (steel plates). pic.twitter.com/hqhL8Rl4M7
Earlier this week, several farmer leaders had appealed to people around the country to join them in boycotting PM Modi’s radio programme on December 27 by beating ‘thaalis’, in the same way the Prime Minister had asked the country to bang utensils during the early days of the coronavirus-induced lockdown.
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