Government admits farm laws' drawbacks, say protesting farmers after meeting
Representatives from farmers groups protesting against the Centre's new farm laws on Thursday held talks with the government to address their concerns. After the conclusion of Thursday's meeting—the fourth such meet—farmer leaders said the government admitted to the laws' drawbacks. Meanwhile, Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar said the government will consider strengthening the Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC) mandis, among other demands.
Government met farmers to resolve protests
The government on Thursday held talks with 35 farmer representatives again after a similar meeting on Tuesday. Farm leaders have pushed for the laws to be fully repealed and have even demanded a special session of the Parliament for the same. The government stands firm that the laws are intended to benefit farmers. The next round of talks has been scheduled for Saturday.
Government to consider some demands, says Agriculture Minister
Tomar told reporters that the farmers have opposed the law's provisions to take their grievances to a Sub Divisional Magistrate court and have instead demanded that they should be allowed to go to a higher court. "The government will consider this demand," he said. Tomar said the government would also consider their concerns over an ordinance on stubble burning and the Act on electricity.
Government to consider strengthening APMC mandis
Tomar said the government will consider further strengthening APMC mandis, which is a concern among farmers. He also said that for trade outside of mandis, traders would have to be registered through PAN Cards. He assured that the Minimum Support Price system will continue. Many farmers have sought this assurance in writing, but Tomar told The Print, "Everything can't be written in the law."
Tomar appeals to farmers to withdraw protests
Tomar said, "The government is holding talks and the issues that will come up during discussions will definitely reach a solution." He appealed to the farmers to "end their agitation so that people of Delhi don't face problems." He further said that the government discussed the farmers' issues with an "open mind," adding, "The government has no ego."
Talks made little progress, say farmers
Bharatiya Kisan Union spokesperson Rakesh Tikait told ANI, "The government has given indications over MSP. It seems that their stand over MSP will be fine. The talks have made little progress." Azaad Kisan Sangharsh Committee's Harjinder Singh Tanda also said the talks have made "little progress." Tanda said the laws are "wrong" and they will put more pressure on the government to repeal them.
'Government had to admit there are drawbacks to laws'
Another farmer representative, Baldev Singh Sirsa, said, "We listed all drawbacks before the government. They had to admit that there are drawbacks and they will make amendments. We don't want amendments, but the withdrawal of the laws."
What are the farmers protesting about?
For months, farmers have protested the laws that were passed in September. The protests intensified over the past week as farmers from several states staged the 'Dilli Chalo ("let's go to Delhi") protest. Farmers fear that by allowing trade outside APMC mandis, the laws will weaken the mandis and they would be deprived of MSPs, leaving them vulnerable to exploitation by big corporations.
Shiromani Akali Dal leaders return national honors in solidarity
Earlier on Thursday, farmer representatives had refused food or tea offered by the government during the meeting. In solidarity with the protests, Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) leader and former Punjab Chief Minister, Parkash Singh Badal, returned his Padma Vibhushan, while SAD MP Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa returned his Padma Bhushan. West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee threatened a nationwide stir in support of the farmers' protest.