A marathon meeting between the Centre and farmer unions remained inconclusive on Tuesday even as the protests by various farmer groups against the contentious farm laws entered its sixth day in and around the national capital. Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar said another round of talks would be held on December 3 after the farmer unions rejected the government’s proposal to set up a committee to look into the issues raised by them.
During the three-hour meeting held at Vigyan Bhawan, 35 representatives of agitating farmers pressed their demands for repeal of three farm laws and withdrawal of the Electricity Amendment Bill 2020 to the ministerial delegation that included Tomar, Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal and Minister of State for Commerce Som Parkash.
After the meeting, Tomar said the discussion with farmer leaders was good. “We had a detailed discussion. We will again meet on December 3. We suggested to them to form a small committee, but they said they all will be present in the meeting. So, we agreed to that,” Tomar told PTI after the meeting.
However, Roopsingh Sanha, member of Bharat Kisan Union (Ekta Ugrahan), said farmer leaders told the government that such committees had led to no results and outcomes in the past. “The farmer’s organisations rejected the government’s proposal to form a five-member committee to look into the issues related to the new farm laws,” Sanha told PTI.
The government has asked the farmers’ bodies to identify specific issues related to the three new farm laws and submit those by Wednesday for consideration and discussion in the next round of talks on Thursday, an official statement said.
The farmers have expressed apprehension that the Centre’s farm laws would pave the way for the dismantling of the minimum support price (MSP) system, leaving them at the “mercy” of big corporates. The government, on the other hand, has maintained that the new laws would enable farmers to regulate the price of their produce, removing them from the clutches of middlemen and APMC and usher in new technologies in agriculture.
An earlier meeting on November 13 had failed to give any breakthrough. The next meeting was scheduled for December 3, but it had to be preponed due to the ongoing protests on Delhi borders.
The farmers had also rejected the call for talks made by Home Minister Amit Shah on November 28, where he had urged them to relocate their protesting site from Jantar Mantar to Burari district on the outskirts of Delhi.
Canadian PM backs farmers; India retorts
Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Tuesday extended his support to farmers who have been protesting against the three farm laws, noting that the situation is “concerning”.
Speaking on the occasion of Gurupurab to his Canadian-Punjabi constituents, Trudeau said, “I would be remiss if I didn’t start by recognising the news coming from India about the protest by farmers. The situation is concerning. We are all very worried about family and friends. We know that’s a reality for many of you. Let me remind you, Canada will always be there to defend the rights of peaceful protesters. We believe in the process of dialogue. We’ve reached out through multiple means to the Indian authorities to highlight our concerns. This is a moment for all of us to pull together.”
India reacted sharply and called the remarks made by Canadian leaders as “ill-informed” and “unwarranted”. The Ministry of External Affairs official spokesperson said, “we have seen some ill-informed comments by Canadian leaders relating to farmers in India. Such comments are unwarranted, especially when pertaining to the internal affairs of a democratic country. It is also best that diplomatic conversations are not misrepresented for political purposes.”
Shiv Sena MP Priyanka Chaturvedi also objected to Trudeau’s remark and told him not to play politics using “India’s internal issue as fodder”. “Dear @JustinTrudeau, touched by your concern but Indias internal issue is not fodder for another nations politics. Pls respect the courtesies that we always extend to other nations. Request PM @narendramodi ji to resolve this impasse before other countries find it okay to opine,” tweeted Chaturvedi, a Rajya Sabha member.
Delhi-Noida border blocked
Meanwhile, peaceful sit-ins by farmers continued at the Singhu and Tikri borders. While no untoward incident was reported throughout the day, the protesters gathered in large numbers at the Delhi-Noida border, blocking the roads that led to traffic jams.
The farmers dug in at the Chilla border where police have been deployed on both the Delhi as well as Noida side in huge numbers. In view of the closure of the road, the traffic police have advised commuters to take alternative routes.
“Chilla border that links Delhi to UP through Noida has been closed. Those drivers who want to go to Noida can take U-turn from under the Ghazipur-Akshardham flyover and also through Sarai Kale Khan,” the Delhi Traffic Police tweeted.
Shaheen Bagh’s dadi stopped on way to join protests
Bilkis Dadi, the octogenarian who was featured in the Time magazine for being the face of anti-CAA protests at Shaheen Bagh earlier this year, was stopped by Delhi Police personnel when she tried to join the protesting farmers at Singhu Border. Bilkis, popularly known as the Shaheen Bagh Dadi, had expressed her willingness to join the farmers’ protest at the Delhi-Haryana border at Singhu.
Deputy Commissioner of Police (Outer North) Gaurav Sharma said, “She is a senior citizen and due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, we stopped her at the Singhu Border and requested her to return for her own safety and betterment”.
“To avoid any kind of any inconvenience to her, she was escorted by the police team to her home in southeast Delhi,” PTI quoted him as saying.
Bhim Army chief joins protesting farmers
Bhim Army chief Chandrashekar Azad joined the protesting farmers at the Delhi-Ghazipur border along with hundreds of his supporters. The Dalit leader, who is also the leader of Azad Samaj Party, said, “The farmers have been fighting for their rights in this cold. These laws should be withdrawn immediately.”
“We extend our full support to our farmers. We are with them in this fight,” PTI quoted him as saying.
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