Striking farmers stick to their guns ahead of sixth round of talks with Govt

NEW DELHI: The sixth round of talks between the government and striking farmers begins here on Wednesday afternoon to resolve the imbroglio on the three farm laws as the (farmers) protests enters 35tn day.
Till late Tuesday no apparent solution was in sight as the striking farmers’ unions wrote to the Centre sticking to their demand of repeal of the three laws and saying the talks should be strictly limited to the agenda they have specified earlier. The unions said the talks would be held only on the modalities of repealing the three laws and giving a legal guarantee on the Minimum Support Price (MSP).
The talks were expected to be held on December 29 after the farmers organizations had sent a proposal to the government. However, the government in a communication invited the farmers for talks on December 30. The farmers accepted the government’s suggestion.
Union Agriculture Secretary Sanjay Agarwal in a letter to 40 representatives of farm unions, invited the farmers for the next round of talks on December 30 and said the government was committed to resolving the “relevant issues rationally” with a “clean intention and an open mind.”
”All the issues related to farmers, including the three farm laws, MSP-based procurement, the Commission for the Air Quality Management in National Capital Region and Adjoining Areas Ordinance, 2020, and the Electricity Amendment Bill 2020 will be discussed in detail,” he said in the letter. The farmers representatives said the agenda they had conveyed to the government for the meeting was very clear. The government had acknowledged the agenda but had not said anything about repealing the laws. They (the representatives) said the invitation for talks sent by the government was a welcome step even though it lacked clarity. Nevertheless the farmers unions expected something new from the government that would help in arriving at a solution.
Ahead of the talks Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar and Railway Minister Piyush Goyal met Home Minister Amit Shah on Tuesday evening to discuss and finalize the government’s position for the sixth round of the talks.
Five rounds have been held so far between the two sides without any solution. While the government has agreed to make amendments in the three laws, the farmers are demanding nothing less than their total repeal. The sixth round which was scheduled to be held on December 9, was cancelled.
The last round was held on December 8 between Home Minister Amit Shah and representatives of 13 unions of farmers. The Centre on December 9 sent a proposal to the protesting unions suggesting some amendments in the farm laws. However, the farmers rejected the government proposals.
Even as the talks continue to be held to resolve the contentious issue, the government has made several attempts to reach out to the striking farmers who have been demanding nothing less than the repeal of the three laws.
In a related development, farmers allegedly damaged nearly 1400 mobile towers belonging to Jio (Reliance) in Punjab in protest against the three laws. Striking farmers fear that the three laws would make it easier for corporates to take over their farm lands which the government has been consistently denying. Following the vandalism Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh on Monday directed the police to take action against those responsible.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday advised against damaging public property during demonstrations and movements and stressed the need for not forgetting one’s obligation to the nation while expressing democratic right. He called for keeping the development of the country’s infrastructure away from politics and said the country’s infrastructure should be a mission to benefit many generations, not five years of politics.
In yet another outreach to the farmers, the Prime Minister virtually flagged off the 100th service of the Kisan Rail between Sangola in Maharashtra and West Bengal’s Shalimar and said the government would continue taking steps to strengthen Indian agriculture and farmers.
He said the reforms announced the government would lead to expansion of agri-business. “We will keep marching on the path of strengthening Indian agriculture and farmers with full devotion, with full force.”