Ahead of their eighth round of meeting with the government on Friday (January 8), farmers’ representatives, who stand by their initial demands, have said they have zero expectations from the government and are attending the meeting only to avoid being portrayed in a negative light.
The farmers’ leaders will meet government representatives at 2 pm on Friday.
While farmers stand by their initial demands (repeal of the three farm laws, assurance on the minimum support price (MSP) and implementation of the Swaminathan Committee report), Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar on Thursday said the government is ready to consider any proposal other than the repeal of the three farm laws.
“I cannot say anything right now. In fact, it depends on the issues that are raised during the meeting,” Tomar told reporters when asked about the likely outcome of the January 8 meeting.
“The reforms (measures) taken now are just the beginning. More reforms will follow. Next, the pesticides bill and seed bill will be introduced,” he added.
Farmers’ representatives, however, say they will not consider any proposal other than the repeal of the three farm laws. Harendra Singh Lakhwal, president of Punjab Kisan Union, told The Federal that they are going to the meeting with ‘zero expectations’.
“We just want a repeal of these laws. We can’t settle for the MSP assurance when four lakh farmers sitting on the borders of Delhi just want the repeal of these laws. I doubt if the government will do it easily. That is why we are here for the long run. We will make the government repeal the three farm laws. We already intensified our protest through a huge tractor rally yesterday and our schedule till January 26 is already out,” he said.
When asked why they were attending the meeting if they already know that the government will not repeal the laws, he said, “If we don’t go to the meetings, the government and media will start showing us negatively. They do negative publicity for us. We are shown as a group of adamant people who are having fun on the borders. That is why we are going to these talks.”
Gurnam Singh Chadauni of the Bhartiya Kisan Union (BKU), Haryana told The Federal that they will not settle for anything less than the said demands.
The seventh round of talks between farmers and the central government on Monday (January 4) failed to break the deadlock with both sides refusing to stand down. At Monday’s talks, while the farmer representatives stuck to their initial demand to repeal the three farm laws, the government said it can’t be done.
Ahead of the talks with the government, thousands of farmers on Thursday took out tractor marches from protest sites of Singhu, Tikri and Ghazipur borders and Haryana’s Rewasan. According to the protesting farmer unions, this is just a “rehearsal” for their proposed tractor parade slated for January 26 that will move into the national capital from different parts of Haryana, Punjab and Uttar Pradesh.
Kaka Singh Kotra, president of BKU Ekta Kotra said that the government should see the zest of farmers. He said, “There were thousands of tractors in the tractor march yesterday. The march was successful. It gives a clear message to the government that we are here for a long run and will not go back without repeal of the laws. Now on January 26, we will take tractors to every street of Delhi.”
“If the government doesn’t listen to us, at some time, we will block all the borders in Delhi. The movement on the borders will be closed from all the four sides. Apart from air travel, no one will be allowed to enter and exit Delhi,” he added.
Darshan Pal, president of Krantikari Kisan Union, said, “Besides a tractor march on January 26, the agitation plan includes the boycott of Adani and Ambani products, burning copies of the laws on Lohri, observing Mahila Kisan Diwas on January 18 and Azad Hind Kisan Diwas on January 23 on the occasion of the birth anniversary of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose.”