Udayavni Special

Farmer unions reject Centre’s proposal; vow to intensify stir; Oppn leaders meet President

PTI, Dec 10, 2020, 8:28 AM IST

New Delhi: Farmer leaders on Wednesday rejected a government offer of amendments in the new agri laws and a “written assurance” on continuing the MSP system, saying there was nothing new in it, and vowed to intensify their agitation by blocking key highways linking Delhi and a nationwide protest on December 14.

The sixth round of talks between the Centre and the agitating farmer unions slated for Wednesday was cancelled, but the two sides maintained they were open to dialogue.

The Opposition, which has been supporting the farmers” stir and had backed Tuesday”s ”Bharat bandh”, approached President Ram Nath Kovind.

A five-member delegation that included Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, NCP chief Sharad Pawar and CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury met the president seeking repeal of the farm laws against which thousands of farmers have been protesting on the borders of the national capital for the last 13 days.

The Shiromani Akali Dal alleged that the Centre packaged “old wine in a new bottle” and said the farmers have rightly rejected the proposal.

After Union Home Minister Amit Shah”s meeting with farmer leaders last night, the government sent the proposal offering to make necessary amendments on at least seven issues, including one to allay fears about the weakening of the mandi system.

The government said an amendment can be made wherein state governments can register the traders operating outside mandis. States can also impose tax and cess as they used in APMC (Agricultural Produce Market Committee) mandis on them.

On apprehensions about the scrapping of the Minimum Support Price (MSP) regime and shifting of trade to private players, the government said it is ready to give a written assurance that the existing MSP will continue.

Addressing a press conference, farmer leader Shiv Kumar Kakka said there was nothing new in the government”s proposal, and that it was “completely rejected” by the ”Sanyukta Kisan Committee” in its meeting on Wednesday.

The farmer leaders, who have been adamant on their demand to scrap the laws, said it was an “insult” to the farmers and they would intensify their agitation by blocking the Jaipur-Delhi and the Delhi-Agra expressways by Saturday, and escalate it to a nationwide protest on December 14 when they will “gherao” BJP ministers and boycott party leaders.

Darshan Pal, another farmer leader, said the farmers rejected the proposed amendments in the laws as they wanted nothing less than a complete withdrawal of the legislation.

He said the new draft contained what had already been proposed to them by Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar in his previous meetings with farmer leaders.

He said the protesters will block all highways to the national capital on December 14, and gherao district headquarters, and also BJP district offices.

The farmer leaders also demanded that a law should be brought to give legal backing to the MSP mechanism.

Speaking to PTI, general secretary of Bhartiya Kisan Union (Dakaunda) Jagmohan Singh said, “We are planning to send a rejoinder to the central government.”

The Shiromani Akali Dal, which had quit the BJP-led NDA over the farm laws, alleged that the Centre “proposals were nothing but delaying and diversionary tactics and tricks which have rightly been rejected by the farmers”.

“5 months” non-stop protests, 6 marathon meetings, 15 nights spent in chill on Delhi roads by Annadata pleading with GoI to withdraw #AntiFarmerActs but their pain goes unfelt! Centre packaged old wine in new bottle. Farmers have rightly rejected the proposal & SAD stands by them,” former union minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal tweeted.

BKU leader Jagmohan Singh, however, said farmer leaders are open to continuing the dialogue.

“We will come for the meeting if the government invites, but our demand should be met. It has become a mass movement. We cannot return to our villages with empty hands,” he added.

Separately, Union Minister Prakash Javadekar said at a post-Cabinet media briefing that the government is sensitive to the concerns of farmers as he expressed hope that ongoing deliberations with them, which he termed a “work in progress”, over the three agriculture-related laws will yield some results soon. Meanwhile, Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar met Home Minister Amit Shah to discuss the next course of action after farmer leaders rejected the Centre”s draft proposal.

Minister of Railways and Commerce and Industry Piyush Goyal was also present in the meeting.

A select group of farm leaders, after the meeting with Shah on Tuesday night, had made it clear that they would not accept any amendments and would continue to protest unless the government repeals all three farm laws.

Talking about the meeting with the Home Minister, Kakka claimed on Wednesday, “When we asked Amit Shah as to why the government did not consult farmers before enacting the three laws, he acknowledged that some mistakes had been made.”

He also said there were no differences among farmer unions as was being reported by a section of the media.

In the proposal, sent by Agriculture Ministry Joint Secretary Vivek Aggarwal, the government said is ready to consider with an open heart the objections which farmers have on the new farm laws.

It also appealed to protesting farmers to end the agitation.

To rule out apprehension that the farmers may be duped as anyone having just a pan card is allowed to trade outside APMC mandis, the government said the state governments can be given the power to register such traders and make rules keeping in mind the local situation of farmers.

The government said it is open to making an amendment to provide for an appeal in civil courts. Currently, the dispute resolution is at the SDM level.

On fears that big corporates will take over farmlands, the government said it has already been made clear in the laws, but still, for clarity”s sake, it can be written that no buyer can take loans against farmland nor any such condition will be made to farmers.

About the demand for scrapping the proposed Electricity Amendment bill 2020, the government said there won”t be any change in the existing system of electricity bill payment for farmers.

On farmers” demand to scrap the Air Quality Management of NCR Ordinance 2020, under which there is the provision of penalty for stubble burning, the government said it is ready to find an appropriate solution.

The draft proposal was sent to 13 farm union leaders including Joginder Singh Urgrahan of BKU (Ekta Ugrahan), one of the biggest among nearly 40 agitating unions.

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