Farmers agitation: One step forward, two steps backward

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Farmers sit next to a bonfire to keep themselves warm on a cold winter day during a protest against farm laws in Ghaziabad border, in New Delhi on Friday. (ANI)

Industry group, academics urge an end to the protest against new farm bills 

Our Bureau
New Delhi  

Amid the start of a new decade, the agitation of the farmers against the three new farm laws has entered the 37th day on Friday. The sixth round of talks between the Union government and the farmers’ unions took place on Wednesday. While a consensus was reached on issues related to the environment and Electricity Act, the deadlock continued on the two main demands, legal assurance on Minimum Support Price (MSP) and complete rollback of the three farm laws. The next round of talks will take place on January 4. “All three new farm laws should be taken back,” demanded Sukhwinder Singh, a member of Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Committee.

“We will intensify the agitation, if there is no solution on January 4,” he added.

The government told farmer leaders during the meeting on Wednesday that a committee could be formed to deliberate on their demands. During discussions, the government told farmer leaders that a committee could be formed to deliberate on the farmers’ demands regarding the three farm laws. A meeting between the Union government and farmer leaders concluded at Vigyan Bhawan in Delhi on Wednesday with Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar stating that a consensus was reached on two out of four issues on the agenda. 

Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) spokesperson Rakesh Tikait had earlier hit out at the opposition saying the opposition was weak and are not supporting the cause as they should. “This is the reason farmers have had to come on the roads. The government doesn’t fear them. They should sit in pitched tents and stage protests on roads against the farm laws,” Tikait said. 

But, a consensus was reached on stubble burning and safeguarding power subsidies, two of the four issues that were on the agenda for talks between protesting farmers and central ministers on Wednesday.

While Krantikari Kisan Union President Darshan Pal said, “There is still a deadlock over three farm laws being scrapped. We could not reach a consensus with them on MSP. On issue of stubble burning, the government agreed to exclude farmers from fine. On the electricity issue, the government has taken back Power Bill 2020.”

On Friday, Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh on Friday greeted the people on New Year, with hopes and prayers of early resolution of the problems of the peacefully protesting farmers. Congratulating the farmers for continuing to exercise their democratic and Constitutional right to protest in a peaceful manner, the Chief Minister said they had won the hearts of the people worldwide with their behaviour. 

On the same day, ASSOCHAM President Vineet Agarwal has written to Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh seeking his intervention in preventing damage to national assets during the ongoing farmers’ protest. “Continuation of agitation, with incidents of damage to industrial and other infrastructure, would turn investors away from Punjab,” the letter states. “Warm greetings and a very happy new year to you and the people of Punjab on behalf of ASSOCHAM and on my own behalf. May 2021 usher in peace and prosperity as we enter the new year with a sense of optimism and hope that the world would be a much safer and healthier place to live and the Covid 19 pandemic would soon be behind us,” the letter read.

“Captain Sahib, the state of Punjab has always occupied a pride of place for our nation. The people of the state have made a mark of their courage, entrepreneurship all over the world. While the state has shown great leadership in entrepreneurship, its progressive farmers have made an immense contribution in making India a surplus nation in foodgrains and other agri products,” it read.

In a related development, over 850 academicians from different parts of the country have strongly supported the agricultural reform laws brought by the government, saying these Acts seek to free farm trade from restrictions and enable farmers to sell their produce at competitive prices.

In a statement, the academicians who also include a few Vice-Chancellors, said that union government has repeatedly assured the farmers that these three farm laws will not do away with Minimum Support Price (MSP) “but rather free the farm trade from all illicit market restrictions, open the market beyond ‘mandis’ and further assists the small and marginal farmers to sell their produce at market/competitive prices”. 

The statement said that the bills were passed in the monsoon session of the parliament “with a vibrant discussion”. 

Monks join farmers to support them during a protest against the new farm laws, at Ghazipur border, in New Delhi on Friday. (ANI)

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