With farmers and the Centre reaching a consensus on Wednesday on two of the four main issues on their agenda, farmer leaders feel that the government has softened their stance, but asserted they’ll intensify their agitation if the new laws are not repealed.
The farmer leaders met government representatives for the sixth round of talks at Vigyan Bhawan in Delhi on Wednesday with four main demands, and held deliberations for over five hours.
Outlining their four main demands before Wednesday’s meeting, Gurnam Singh Chadauni of the Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU), Haryana told The Federal they will not settle for anything less than repealing of the laws, assurance of the minimum support price (MSP), withdrawal of the proposed Electricity (Amendment) Bill 2020 and removal of the penal provision for farm fires.
But with them reaching a consensus on stubble burning and safeguarding power subsidies, it is to be seen whether the government bends on the two other issues, which will be taken up for discussion during the next meeting on January 4.
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“The government is doing away with the proposed Electricity (Amendment) Bill 2020 and removing the penal provision for farm fires. But two of our main issues still need to be resolved. The talks on MSP and repealing of three Farm laws will be conducted in the next meeting on January 4,” Rakesh Tikait, spokesperson for Bhartiya Kisan Union (BKU) told The Federal.
Meanwhile, speaking to the media outside Vigyan Bhawan, Union agriculture minister Narendra Singh Tomar said that the concerns of the farmers on the draft Electricity (Amendment) Bill and the Air Quality Management Ordinance (containing penal provisions for stubble burning) had been addressed.
He said talks were held in a good environment and ended on a positive note, and that the government had already declared it was ready to give written assurance on MSP. Meanwhile, Tomar also urged the farmers to send the elderly, women and the children back home due to the extreme weather.
Firm on their stand
Meanwhile, Tikait asserted that the farmers will not return until the farm laws are repealed. “They are listening to us more than in the previous five meetings. But it is unfortunate that it took five meetings for the government to listen to us,” he said.
“If I trust the outcomes of today’s meeting, we are hopeful the next meeting on January 4 will be fruitful. That the government will do away with the farm bills as well,” he said. “We’ll only go home if the government does away with these laws,” he asserted.
Sandeep Gidde, president of Rashtriya Kisan Mahasabha Maharashtra, said they are ready to negotiate on the electricity and the stubble burning bills, which the government has agreed to repeal, but firm on their demand of repealing the three farm laws.
“The government is ready to form a committee for the MSP guarantee bill but we have requested them to pass an ordinance in the Parliament. In between, they can form a committee, but should pass the bill in the Parliament. The government is saying they’ll amend the farm laws but we are still stuck up with our demand of removing the bills entirely,” he said.
Meeting was positive but unfruitful
Gurnam Singh Chaduni, after the meeting, told The Federal that only 10 per cent of the work has been done.
“Our main demands are repealing the farm laws and assuring MSP. We can still negotiate on the two other demands, but the main ones are not yet addressed. It is like they have given us a lollypop to tell the media that ‘we have come two steps ahead and now the farmers should also come two steps ahead’,” he said.
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“But it is not two steps ahead, it is like our 90 per cent of the work is still pending. The government has moved just an inch. The meeting was positive but unfruitful. We have told the ministers that January is going to start soon. In some time there will be no cold and then more farmers will come and sit with us if they don’t repeal the laws,” Chaduni said.
Jaibeer Singh, a BKU Ugrahan leader told The Federal all their demands were not yet accepted and that they will continue intensifying the protest.
“We will discuss the rest of the bills on January 4. The last meeting was on a positive note and we did not expect the government to give us such a warm welcome this meeting. But it was not fruitful. The sole outcome of this meeting was that the deadlock of talks has been broken between the farmers and the government,” he said.