Deepening the standoff over the new farm laws, farmer unions Wednesday rejected the Centre’s written assurance on continuation of MSP-based procurement and parity in transactions inside and outside APMC mandis, and threatened to intensify their protest by blocking more highways leading to Delhi.
The Opposition too came out in support of the farmers, with Congress leader Rahul Gandhi telling them “don’t be scared… if you don’t stand up today, you will not be able to stand up ever”. Gandhi, who led an Opposition delegation to President Ram Nath Kovind, urged him to persuade the government to accept the demands of the farmers and repeal the laws.
“The government should not be under any misconception. The farmers will not compromise. Why… because they have understood that if they compromise today… they will have no future in India. They have clearly understood that if they don’t stand up today… and I am telling this to the farmers… if you don’t stand up today, you will not be able to stand up ever. We are all with you. Don’t be scared. Nobody can push you back… you are India,” Gandhi said when he was asked about farmers rejecting the government proposal.
At Singhu border, leaders of the Samyukta Kisan Morcha, an umbrella body representing several farmers unions, dismissed the government proposal, which reached them around 2.30 pm, and called it “vague”.
Rashtriya Kisan Mazdoor Mahasangh president Shiv Kumar Kakka said the proposals did not contain anything new that had not already figured in the five rounds of talks with the Centre.
“We have already had discussions on the pointers forwarded by the Centre. And these had been already rejected. Once again, it was unanimously decided that the draft proposal will be rejected. Any call on further talks with the Centre will be taken by the committee based on the proposals they send. For now, our focus is on intensifying the agitation,” Kakka said.
Farmers leaders, including Bharatiya Kisan Union president Rakesh Tikait, also rejected suggestions of any rift among the unions. Tikait denied having any role in setting up the meeting Tuesday of 13 farmer leaders with Union Home Minister Amit Shah.
Darshan Pal, president of Krantikari Kisan Union, said the committee had decided to boycott all Reliance and Adani Group products, and establishments such as shopping malls run by the two corporate houses.
He said residences of BJP leaders, ministers and offices will be gheraoed on December 14. On the same day, there will be dharnas at district headquarters across the country, he said.
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In the southern states, the protests will continue indefinitely, Pal said. He said the Jaipur-Delhi highway will be blocked “on or before December 12”.
“Toll plazas across the country will be made free on December 12,” Kakka said, adding that the committee will consider suggestions to breach the borders of Delhi.
Kakka claimed that during the meeting with Shah Tuesday, Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar wanted to share details of deliberations during the previous meetings, a suggestion that did not find many takers among farmer leaders.
“We said there’s no point repeating what has already been discussed. They conceded that mistakes have been made and farmers should have been taken into confidence before passing the laws. We made it clear that all the three laws must be repealed and MSP should be given the guarantee of law,” Kakka said.
All India Kisan Sabha president Ashok Dhawale told reporters that the government’s proposal amounted to “insulting the farmers”.
“It contains nothing new. In fact, they have stepped back from assurances made previously. The BJP and its corporate friends are today pitted against the working class of this country,” Dhawale said.
Meanwhile, Rahul Gandhi, flanked by NCP chief Sharad Pawar, CPM general secretary Sitaram Yechury, CPI’s D Raja and DMK leader T K S Elangovan, said they told the President that the farm Bills were passed without any “conversation” with the Opposition parties, and without any discussion with farmers, and it was very important that they be “taken back.”
“The way the Bills were imposed, we see it as an insult to the farmers of this country. The farmers have lost faith in the government. The farmers don’t believe the government is acting in their interest and that is why lakhs of them are on the streets, non-violently and compassionately on the streets…. We informed the President that it is absolutely critical that these Bills are taken back,” Gandhi said.
Pawar said the Opposition parties had asked the Government to refer the Bills to a parliamentary select committee so that they could be discussed in detail. “But unfortunately, not a single suggestion from the Opposition was accepted, and these three Bills were passed in a hurry. That is one of the reasons why we started getting reactions from the farming community…. political parties are not directly involved in this agitation in any way, but the farming community has realised that all these Bills are ultimately not protecting their main interests,” he said.
Meanwhile, Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel, speaking at the Idea Exchange programme of The Indian Express, said the farmers had been seeking a “yes or no” answer from the government.
“The government should give a yes or no answer. Kendra sarkar apne hatdharmi chhore (the central government should give up its adamant attitude). If the farmers don’t want changes, then why are you forcibly making changes? Neither farmers nor farmer unions or political parties had demanded it. You implemented it and if the farmers don’t want it, then take it back,” he said.
“After that if you want to make some reforms in the mandi Act — there are many ways and scope for reforms – who is stopping you? But in the name of farm reforms… you have brought these Bills… agriculture is a state subject, but you added the word marketing in it which has impacted farmers across the country. You did not take the consent (sahmati) of states… Had you taken the consent (sahmati) of states, this situation would not have arisen,” he said.