Consensus reached on 2 issues: Government after meeting with farmers
The central government on Wednesday held the sixth round of talks with farmers protesting against new agricultural laws. A three-member team representing the government—Union Ministers Narendra Singh Tomar, Piyush Goyal, and Som Prakash—held talks with 40 farmer leaders. The government's efforts to resolve the protests had been unfruitful as the farmers remained adamant on their demand for a complete rollback of the laws.
Tomar said the meeting "concluded on a positive note." He said consensus was reached on two out of four issues: the electricity law and stubble burning. The next meeting has been scheduled for 2 pm on January 4, 2021. The issues of MSP guarantee and the three farm laws will be taken up in the next meeting, farmer leader Kalwant Singh Sandhu told PTI.
Tomar said both the farmers and the government agreed to exclude the farmers from the ambit of an ordinance on stubble burning. "Unions wanted that electricity subsidy given to farmers by states for irrigation should continue. A consensus was reached on this issue also," Tomar said, adding that they have urged farmers to send the elderly, women, and children home from the protest site.
For months, farmers have protested against the three farm laws passed in September. The protests intensified in November-end as thousands of farmers from several states reached Delhi, camping at the city's borders. Farmers fear that by allowing trade outside APMC mandis, the laws will weaken the mandis and they would be deprived of Minimum Support Prices (MSPs), leaving them vulnerable to exploitation by corporations.
The four-point agenda included "modalities to be adopted for the repeal of the three Central Farm Acts" and the mechanisms required for ensuring the Minimum Support Price is legally guaranteed. The agenda also includes excluding farmers from penalties under the Commission for the Air Quality Management ordinance and withdrawal of the proposed Electricity Amendment Bill, 2020 to protect farmers' interests.
Ahead of Wednesday's meeting, farmer leaders had said that they will raise the issue of increased frauds committed by traders against farmers in Madhya Pradesh ever since the laws were enacted. A farmer leader from Punjab, Baldev Singh Sirsa, said, "Merchants have opened offices in villages, bought crops from farmers and then run away...They have not paid the farmers their crop amount."
Maharashtra farmer leader Sandeep Gidde Patil told NDTV that a corporate gave a cheque of Rs. 2 crore to 22 farmers in MP's Harda district. However, the cheque bounced. When the farmers approached the police, they were asked to go to the Sub-Divisional Magistrate. The farmer leaders had said that they will submit the details of around 200 such cases from across India.
Earlier on Wednesday, Union Minister Som Prakash had said the meeting would be "decisive." Som had said the government wants farmers to "celebrate New Year at their homes." The farmers have braved the Delhi winter on the national capital's borders for a month. He had said the government would discuss "every issue," including MSPs, but requested the farmers to come with an "open mind."
The previous five rounds of talks between the government and farmer leaders have failed to end the month-long deadlock. The farmers continue to push for a complete rollback of the reforms, even rejecting the government's proposal for amendments and assurances on MSP. Recently, the Supreme Court had ordered the constitution of a special committee for negotiations to resolve the deadlock.