Ahead of the resumption of talks with the Centre Wednesday, farmer unions, protesting at the gates of Delhi against the new farm laws, wrote to the government saying the discussion can only be on a four-point agenda including modalities of repealing the laws and providing a legal guarantee on minimum support price.
In a letter to Sanjay Agarwal, Secretary, Department of Agriculture, Cooperation and Farmers Welfare, the Samyukt Kisan Morcha, representing 40 farmer unions, listed the two other items on the agenda as amendments to the ‘Commission Ordinance for Air Quality Management in the National Capital Region and adjoining areas, 2020’, and the procedure for withdrawal of the draft ‘Electricity Amendment Bill 2020’.
Formally accepting the government’s invitation to the talks, the Morcha said, “It is necessary to conduct our discussion according to this agenda to find a rational solution to relevant issues.”
Surjit Singh Phool of BKU (Krantikari) said the meeting agenda they had sent to the government was very clear. “In its letter to us, the government acknowledged our agenda, but did not specifically mention repealing the laws. Their letter lacks clarity, but we believe that their act of asking us for the agenda was a welcome step. Now, we expect something new from them, something that is in the direction of finding the best way to repeal the laws,” he said.
While all 40 leaders invited by the government will go for the talks, only five leaders, Phool said, would put forward the views of the farmers. Jagmohan Singh, BKU (Dakaunda) general secretary, said farmers have postponed their tractor march, scheduled for Wednesday, to Thursday.
“If the talks are fruitful, there will be no need for this march and we will spend the New Year with our families. We are at the table to discuss issues. That is what the Supreme Court also wanted,” he said.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, referring to the targeting of infrastructure during demonstrations and movements, said this amounts to hurting the country, its “poor and common people”. While exercising democratic rights, he said, “we should never forget our obligation to the nation”.
Inaugurating the New Bhaupur-New Khurja section and the operation control centre of the Eastern Dedicated Freight Corridor, the Prime Minister said dedicated freight corridors will allow farm produce to reach destinations faster and benefit everyone, from industry to businesses, farmers to consumers.
In an address via a video link, Modi said: “Our past experience tells us that the development of the country’s infrastructure should be kept away from politics. The country’s infrastructure is the path of its development, not that of a party’s ideology. It’s a mission to benefit many future generations, not five years of politics. If political parties have to compete, there should be competition in the quality of infrastructure, competition on speed and scale.”
“I find it necessary to mention another mindset here, one we often see during demonstrations and movements. The mindset that damages the nation’s infrastructure, its property. We should remember that this infrastructure does not belong to a leader, party or government. It is national property. It has been built with the sweat of the poor, the taxpayer, the middle class, every section of society. Any injury to it is an injury to the poor, common people. While exercising our democratic rights, we should never forget our obligation to the nation.”
Stating that “when the first goods train ran today on the Khurja-Bhau section of the freight corridor, one could hear the echo and roar of a New India, Atmanirbhar Bharat”, the Prime Minister took a swipe at the previous UPA government for the “delay” over implementation of the freight corridor project.
“This delayed project is a living example of the work culture of the government before 2014. This project was approved in 2006, but was being built only in papers and files. The seriousness with which the Centre should have discussed with states, the urgency with which talks should have been held never took place. The result was that work got stuck.”
“Until 2014, not a single kilometre track of the project was laid and the funds sanctioned could not be spent properly. After 2014, it was restarted and officials asked to take it forward,” he said. “I personally monitored it on Pragati (platform for Pro-Active Governance and Timely Implementation), consulted the stakeholders associated with this, studied the project… As a result of this, a total of around 1100 km will be completed in the next few months. Imagine, not a kilometre in eight years, and now 1100 kilometres in six-seven years,” he said.
The new freight corridor, he said, will be a boost for eastern India which has lagged behind in the industrial sector. He said about 60 per cent of the corridor falls in Uttar Pradesh. It will attract industries to UP, and the Kisan Rail too would benefit from this dedicated freight corridor. He said farmers, who can send their produce via rail to big markets across the country, safely and at a low price, can now send it faster via this corridor.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines