Farmers reject govt proposal; opposition parties meet President

'We met the President and informed him of our view regarding the three farm laws. We have asked for their repeal,' Rahul Gandhi said after meeting Ram Nath Kovind

In a statement issued on December 14, the Agriculture Ministry had said Mann-led AIKCC members submitted a memorandum to it in favour of the farm acts. File photo PTI

The protesting farmers on Wednesday (December 9) rejected the government’s draft proposal in which it said it will give a “written assurance” that the existing Minimum Support Price (MSP) regime for procurement will continue.

The farmers’ leaders said there was nothing new in the government’s proposal and they will continue their protest.

They said all roads in Delhi will be blocked one by one if the new farm laws are not scrapped. Also, they said they will gherao district headquarters in states on December 14, and block the Jaipur-Delhi highway till December 12.

Earlier, the government proposed to make necessary amendments on at least seven issues, including one to allay fears about the weakening of the mandi system.

In a draft proposal sent to 13 agitating farmer unions, the government also said it is ready to provide all necessary clarifications on their concerns about the new farm laws enacted in September, but it did not mention anything about the main demand of protesting farmers for the repeal of the laws.

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“Farmer unions have received the draft proposal from the government,” Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) national spokesperson Rakesh Tikait told PTI.

The sixth round of talks between the government and farm union leaders, which was scheduled for Wednesday morning, was cancelled.

Govt says ready to address concerns with ‘open heart’

In the proposal, sent by Agriculture Ministry Joint Secretary Vivek Aggarwal, the government said it is ready to consider “with an open heart” the objections which farmers have on the new farm laws.

“The government has tried to address the concerns of farmers with an open heart and with respect for the farming community of the country. The government appeals the kisan unions to end their agitation,” it said.

On farmers’ fears that mandis would weaken after the new laws, the government said an amendment can be made wherein state governments can register the traders operating outside mandis. States can also impose tax and cess as they used in APMC (Agricultural Produce Market Committee) mandis on them.

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The meeting that the agitating farmers had with Home Minister Amit Shah on December 8 was infructuous, as indicated by the cancellation of the sixth round of talks involving Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar on December 9. The farmers are meeting again at Delhi-Haryana border to chalk out the future course of action.

Sources said on Wednesday (Dec 9) that the government was not inclined to scrap the laws, but could address the main concern of the farmers on the MSP (Minimum Support price), mandi system and the Agricultural Produce Marketing and Committees law.

“They (government) said they will send something in writing today. We have told them that if it’s in writing, we’ll look into it. We have our meeting today. A broader committee will discuss it,” Hannan Mollah, general secretary, All India Kisan Sabha told a news agency, earlier in the day.

“We’ll strategise in our meeting and discuss their (Centre’s) proposal. Farmers won’t go back. It’s a matter of their respect. Will the government not withdraw laws? Will there be tyranny? If the government is stubborn, so are farmers. The laws have to be withdrawn,” Rakesh Tikait, spokesperson for the Bhartiya Kisan Union, was quoted by NDTV as saying.

NDTV also quoted sources as saying that the government was also expected to agree to drop the proposed Electricity (Amendment) Bill 2020, which, according to the farmers, goes against them, sources said. The government had earlier argued that the laws are meant to monitor power distributors.

Farmer sources reported five deaths since the agitation began around two weeks back. A 32-year-old farmer was found dead on Tuesday morning near the Delhi-Haryana border.

Meanwhile, opposition parties met President Ram Nath Kovind on Wednesday (Dec 9). Rahul Gandhi was part of the delegation along with Nationalist Congress chief Sharad Pawar, CPI-M’s Sitaram Yechury, CPI’s D Raja and TR Balu.

“We met the President and informed him of our view regarding the three farm laws. We have asked for their repeal. We informed the President that it is critical that they are taken back,” Rahul said after the meeting.

“The way farm bills were passed, we feel it’s insult to farmers. That is why they are protesting in cold weather,” he added.

(With inputs from PTI)