Farmers give a thumbs-down to day-long talks, even as govt says progress made

The government agreed to talk about seven major objections of farmers in new farm laws; farmers not satisfied with talks

By DTE Staff
Published: Thursday 03 December 2020
Farmer leaders eat their own food after refusing lunch offered by the government during the talks at Vigyan Bhavan, New Delhi. Photo: @SukirtiDwivedi / Twitter

Leaders from 35 farmer organisations December 3, 2020 told media there was little progress in talks to resolve the impasse over three new farm laws even as the Centre sounded positive.

Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar told reporters after the seven-hour-long meeting that the government had taken note of at least seven points in the new farm laws that elicited the biggest objections from farmers.

These will be taken up for further discussion in another round of talks December 5.

“Points of discussion have been prepared. Discussions will be held on these points December 5 and we hope that the agitation will end the same day,” Som Prakash, Union Minister of State for Commerce and Industry, who had participated in the talks with Tomar, told journalists.

These points of discussion include:

  • The dismantling of Agriculture Produce Market Committees (APMC)
  • Tax-free trade outside APMC mandis (wholesale grain markets)
  • Trader registration
  • The option of going to court in case of contract farming
  • Minimum Support Price (MSP)
  • The stubble burning ordinance
  • The proposed electricity bill

 “The government does not have any ego. Farmers feel APMCs will get obsolete due to the new laws. The government will discuss ways to strengthen the APMC and increasing its utilisation,” Tomar said.

He added that the new laws laid down provision for private mandis outside the purview of the APMC. Hence, the government would also contemplate about having an equal tax for private as well as mandis under the AMPC Act.

The government would also ensure that traders were registered, Tomar said. This was because during the meeting, a point was made that if trade took place outside the purview of the mandi, it would take place on the basis of a PAN Card, that could be easily acquired by anyone today, he said. 

Tomar reiterated the government’s assurance to farmers about the continuity of the MSP regime. However, he didn’t mention anything about giving a legal sanction to MSP, which is one of the primary demands of the farmers.

Farmer unions, on the other hand, maintained their stand and said they did not want any amendments but rather the complete repeal of the farm laws.

“The issue is about the complete rollback of laws. Discussions will be held on not just one but several issues. Farmers want the laws to be taken back. The government wants to talk about MSP and amendment to the Acts,” Rakesh Tikait, spokesperson, Bharatiya Kisan Union, told media.

Other farmer leaders also said the talks had made little progress. A meeting of all farmer unions has been called December 4 to discuss further course of action.

“We listed all drawbacks before the government. They had to admit that there were drawbacks and they would make amendments. We said we did not want amendments but withdrawal of laws. We also demanded that MSP be implemented for certain and a law promulgated for it,” farmer leader Baldev Singh Sirsa, said.

Meanwhile, during the lunch break, farmer leaders refused the lunch offered by the government and instead preferred to eat food ferried in a van from the Singhu border where thousands have been camping in protest for seven days now.

“In the half time, it seemed that today’s meeting would yield no result. In the second half, it seemed that there was pressure of the farmers’ agitation on the government. The laws are wrong,” Harjinder Singh Tanda, Azaad Kisan Sangharsh Committee, said.

He said in the next meeting, the farmers would put pressure on the government. “They will have to say that they will take back the laws. In my opinion, it will be finalised in the meeting day after tomorrow,” he added.

Farmers and the opposition have also demanded a special Parliament session to discuss the current crisis.

December 3 also saw senior Akali Dal leader and five-time Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal returning his Padma Vibhushan to protest the ‘betrayal of farmers’ by the government.

This came after several sportspersons from Punjab decided to return their awards in solidarity with farmers. 

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