Won’t call off protests; let’s talk MSP next: Farmers’ unions to Centre

Farmers unions in the southern states have said they will continue with their protests until the government not only completes the constitutional process to repeal the three farm laws, but also creates law for the provision of MSP for farm produce and repeals the four labour codes

The repealing of the three contentious laws comes months after farmers' protest at Delhi. Photo: PTI

Hours after Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the Centre’s decision to repeal the three agricultural laws, farmers’ unions have said they will continue their protests until the government fulfils their other demands including the implementation of the Minimum Support Price (MSP) for farm produce.

The three farm laws – Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020, Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020 and Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020 – were enacted by the Parliament in September 2020.

Soon after Prime Minister Narendra Modi made the announcement to repeal the three laws in a 9 am address on Friday (November 19), Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MK Stalin welcomed move, tweeting, “History teaches us that people’s wishes shall prevail in a democracy. I congratulate all the farmers and bow down to their determination for having achieved this through Gandhian means.”

‘Repeal of farm laws only a partial victory’

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Leaders of farmers’ unions, however, have said that rolling back the three laws is not enough.

“The prime minister’s announcement is nothing but the victory of the farmers who have been protesting against the three farm laws for the past one year. The farmers continued their protest even though the government was not ready to hold talks with them in the past 10 months,” P Shanmugam, general secretary of Tamil Nadu farmers association told The Federal.

He said, the repeal of the laws, is only a “partial victory” for farmers, as the prime minister did not mention about the other demands including the implementation of MSP for farm produce and the withdrawal of the Electricity Amendment bill, 2021.

“The government should take steps to fix a minimum support price for all farm produce and should ensure minimum procurement of the produce.  It shouldn’t be difficult for the government because most of the produce harvested by the farmers are either consumable or raw materials for industries. In the absence of these assurances, farmers were forced to sell their produce at lower rates, bearing a huge loss,” he said.

Shanmugam said even Samyukta Kisan Morcha (a coalition of around 40 Indian farmers’ unions, which has been at the forefront of the anti-farm laws protests in Delhi for almost a year) has decided to continue the protests until the Centre completes the constitutional process to repeal the laws in the upcoming Parliament session.

Kiran Vissa, national working group member of All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee (AIKSCC) – a collective of over 250 farmers’ associations – said even though the victory has given a boost to the confidence of the farmers who have been protesting against the law, braving unfavourable weather conditions and government pressure, it’s too early to let one’s guard down.

Also read: Farm laws repeal: Modi at his nimble best with polls round the corner

“The prime minister said that only a section of the farmers have been opposing the laws, but in reality, a majority of the farmers were opposing the laws. From his speech, it is clear that the government did not have any change of heart and have only given in to the mounting pressure from the protesting farmers. Modi continues to say that the laws would be beneficial for the farmers and also there seems to be no changes in the government policies. So, we are going to keep a vigil as the chances of implementing the proposed norms in other ways are high,” Vissa said.

He said the farmers would continue to demand the government to pass the Minimum Support Price Guarantee Act in Parliament.

PR Pandian of Tamil Nadu Federation of all Farmers’ Association said that the announcement was made due to the BJP’s failure to perform well in by-elections conducted in multiple states and not in the interest of farmers. He said, cautioned by its recent by-poll losses, the BJP made the announcement to curry favour with voters ahead of the crucial Uttar Pradesh and Punjab assembly elections,

Ashok Dhawale, president of All India Kisan Sabha said, “The prime minister and his party should take responsibility for the death of 700 farmers in the protest. The government should have learnt its lessons long back and should not have implemented these laws without consulting farmers. But now that the announcement has been made before people, he cannot go back on it.”

Dhawale also sought the government’s assurance on other demands including statutory guarantee of remunerative prices for all agricultural produce, and the withdrawal of the Electricity Amendment Bill.

“If the government is under the illusion that the farmers will back them in the assembly elections because the prime minister announced to repeal the farm laws, it is wrong. The government won’t get the support of farmers because inflation, diesel and petrol price hikes, unemployment, farmers’ anger over the brutal running down of people by a minister son’s car in Lakhimpur Kheri, are still burning issues. We will make it a point to raise these issues in the upcoming elections. We will break their illusions,” he Dhawale.

Kodihalli Chandrashekar from Karnataka Farmers’ Association said the government’s decision to repeal the farm laws only shows its failure in having formulated the legislations in the first place.

“The government blocked roads on all four sides in Delhi and beat up farmers. Nearly 700-800 farmers lost their lives while protesting under extreme cold and hot weather conditions. Then, how can this decision be their victory? ” he said.

Questioning why the bill was passed in an undemocratic and forceful manner in the first place, Chandrashekhar said, even after the issue was debated in the Parliaments of Britain and Canada, the government did not realise the importance of discussing the same with the people and debating it in our own Parliament before passing the laws.

“Now that elections are near, they are scared of losing and have repealed the laws. It was not done out of love for farmers. They have realised the inevitability,” he added.

What about repealing labour codes? ask leaders

Viju Krishnan and P Krishna Prasad, leaders of All India Kisan Sabha told The Federal that the struggle would continue until the government is ready to reconsider other specific demands put forth by the farmers.

“This is an epic battle and a phenomenal victory. This gives a warning and a lesson to all those who are in power that people have the final mandate in democracy,” Viju Krishnan, the joint secretary of All India Kisan Sabha said.

“This is not the victory of farmers alone; there was large-scale participation of workers too in this struggle. Hence the farmers cannot stop the struggle only because the farm laws have been repealed. The government has to repeal the four labour codes too” Viju Krishnan told The Federal that farmers will continue the struggle along with workers until these codes are repealed.

The labour codes, that replaced the 29 labour laws that were passed in Parliament last year, were heavily criticised by the labour unions and worker’s organisations. Labour leaders rue that the new labour codes would encourage employers to implement a ‘hire and fire’ policy and demolish the power of labour unions, thus stripping workers of their rights and voice.

Viju Krishnan said farmers and workers will not stop protesting until the government withdraws the Electricity Amendment Bill too.

“We need not reduce this victory only as a strategy to deal with the upcoming election”, said P Krishna Prasad, former MLA and the finance secretary of All India Kisan Sabha.

“The government has realised that they cannot go on ignoring the protest anymore. We conceive this as a second freedom struggle and this will continue until the government withdraws all other laws formulated only to protect the corporate interests,” he said.

Also read: When did the BJP decide to repeal the ‘black laws’? Here’s a clue

He said that even in withdrawing the farm laws, the government did not comply with the democratic principles.

“The government should have held discussions with the farmers. It has not done that,” he said.

He doesn’t subscribe to the view that the decision was made by the government in view of the upcoming assembly elections. “They have the strategy, money and skill to sabotage the election process and win. Hence let’s not reduce the glory of this victory only as a strategic decision in the context of the election,” he said.

What Rakesh Tikait said

Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) leader Rakesh Tikait on Friday said the ongoing anti-farm laws protest will be withdrawn only after the three contentious legislations are repealed in Parliament and legal guarantee on minimum support price (MSP) for crops made.
The influential farmer leader from western Uttar Pradesh also asked supporters not to engage in celebrations as their “struggle” will continue.

Tikait, who was in Maharashtra’s Palghar for an event on Friday, took to Twitter soon after Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced repealing the three farm laws, which were at the centre of the farmers protest since November 26 last year.

“The protest will not be withdrawn immediately, we will wait for the day when the farm laws are repealed in Parliament. Along with MSP, the government should talk to farmers on other issues too,” Tikait said.

Timeline of Farm Protest

Interactive timeline graphic. Click on the arrow or year to progress.

Timeline of Farm Protest

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