Farmers' Protests: Centre, farmers to hold next round of talks on Wednesday; agri laws and MSP to be discussed
Meanwhile, a group of farmers raised slogans against Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) president Sukhbir Singh Badal and tried to gherao him when he visited Gurdwara Sri Fatehgarh Sahib in Punjab
The Centre and protesting farmers are scheduled to sit down for another round of talks on Wednesday (30 November), with a "detailed" discussion on the contentious farm laws, the provision of minimum support price (MSP), and other laws on the agenda.
In a letter to 40 farmer groups on Monday, Union agriculture secretary Sanjay Aggarwal invited them for the talks at 2 pm on Wednesday at Vigyan Bhavan in the National Capital.
The last formal meeting took place on 5 December, in which union leaders had demanded a clear 'yes or no' answer from the government for the repeal of the three farm laws.
Taking note of the unions' offer to resume talks, Aggarwal said, "The government is also committed to finding a logical solution on all relevant issues with a clear intention and an open mind."
With regard to the proposed agenda by the unions for the meeting, Aggarwal said, "A detailed discussion will take place on the three farm laws, MSP procurement system, as well as Electricity Amendment bill and ordinance to tackle air pollution in and around Delhi/National Capital Region (NCR)."
The invite for the resumption of the stalled talks came after a proposal made by the unions last week to hold the sixth round on 29 December.
The unions have agreed "in-principle" to join the talks but insisted the agenda of the meeting should include discussing modalities for repealing the three legislations enacted in September that have remained the main demand.
Abhimanyu Kohar, a member of the Samyukt Kisan Morcha — an umbrella body of 40 unions protesting against the contentious legislations — said the farmers have agreed to go for the meeting on the date proposed by the Centre.
"In our letter sent to the government on 26 December, we had clearly mentioned that repeal of three farm laws and legal guarantee for MSP should be part of the agenda for fresh talks, but despite this, the government in letter today has not mentioned any specific agenda," Kohar told PTI.
"But, we have agreed in-principle to hold talks with the government."
The All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee (AIKSCC) in a statement said the protesting farmers want the meeting to include four specific agendas including "modalities to be adopted for the repeal of the three Central farm Acts".
The date given by the government for the next round of talks also coincides with the day when the unions have also decided to hold a tractor march from Singhu Border and Tikri Border to the Kundli-Manesar-Palwal (KMP), PTI reported.
Meanwhile, a group of farmers raised slogans against Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) president Sukhbir Singh Badal and tried to gherao him when he visited Gurdwara Sri Fatehgarh Sahib in Punjab on Monday.
The farmers protesting against the Centre's new farm laws also waved black flags at Badal. The police, however, secured an alternative route for Badal's motorcade to leave the area.
Badal's SAD had quit the BJP-led ruling alliance at the Centre in protest against the farm laws and has extended support to the agitating farmers. But the farmers alleged that the SAD and its erstwhile ally BJP have cheated the farmers of Punjab.
Additionally, Kerala governor Arif Mohammed Khan gave his assent for convening the state Assembly for a one-day special session on 31 December to discuss and pass a resolution against the three contentious central farm laws against which farmers are agitating in Delhi.
Modi flags off Kisan Rail, calls new farm laws 'historic'
Prime Minister Narendra Modi said his government has undertaken historic reforms in the farm sector to boost agriculture and strengthen farmers. He was making a speech via video-conferencing after he flagged off the 100th run of the Kisan Rail service across the country between Sangola in Maharashtra and Shalimar in West Bengal.
Modi said his government's policies are clear and intentions transparent in reforming the agriculture sector.
"We will keep on marching on the path of strengthening Indian agriculture and Kisan with full dedication," he said.
Modi did not directly refer to the new farm laws, but he has often asserted they are in the interests of farmers and accused Opposition parties of misleading them.
The 'Kisan Rail', a service started by his government, will help small and marginal farmers, who account for over 80 percent of the farmig community, in supplying their produce to far-off markets, the prime minister said, adding that a big demand for its services led to a rise in its frequency.
This will also help boost the income of farmers, he said. This is also a testimony to the fact that how keen the farmers are for new possibilities, he added.
The government has been working to boost supply chain, cold storage facilities and bringing about value addition to farmers' produce to help them, he added.
Over 1,500 mobile towers targeted during farmers' stir in Punjab
Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh on Monday said that 1,561 mobile towers have been "impacted" in the state during the farmers' stir against the agri laws and directed the police to take strict action against vandalisation and disruption of telecom services.
Asserting that he will not let Punjab plunge into anarchy at any cost and nobody can be allowed to take the law into their hands, the chief minister said he has been forced to toughen his stance as his repeated appeals to perpetrators of such acts had been ignored.
The chief minister said that the general public including students, professionals working from home and banking services would suffer the most if the mobile services were disrupted and warned that the use of violence could alienate the protestors from the masses which would be detrimental to the interests of the farming community.
A total of 1,561 mobile towers have been impacted in the state, according to an official statement. The state has a total of 21,306 mobile towers spread across its 22 districts.
Pointing out that his government had not objected to, or stopped, peaceful protests in the state against the Centre's black farm laws for the past several months, Singh said in a statement here that damage to property and inconvenience to the citizens could not, however, be endured.
Out of the total towers impacted, 25 had been damaged, allegedly by some farmers and their supporters in violation of the directions given by farmers' unions to keep their protests against the farm laws peaceful.
Narendra Tomar claims 'lies' being spread among protesters
As the number of farmers agitating Delhi's Singhu border, which has emerged as the protest's epicentre, swelled with new protesters joining the stir, Union agriculture minister Narendra Singh Tomar on Monday said a "wall of lies" has been spread in a "planned manner" among farmers against the agri laws, but it will not last long and the protesters will soon realise the truth.
Tomar also said he is hopeful of an early solution to the impasse.
"Some way out will emerge and we will reach towards the solution. Everyone knows that the wall of lies is never strong. Truth is truth. There is going to be a time when people will start accepting the truth," Tomar said addressing a virtual event organised by Confederation of NGOs of Rural India (CNRI).
At another event, Tomar said former prime minister Manmohan Singh and the then-agriculture minister Sharad Pawar wanted to bring farm reforms during the UPA regime, but could not implement them due to "political pressure".
Tomar also asserted the Modi government will not take any decisions detrimental to the poor and farmers.
The minister was addressing representatives of 11 farmer organisations from Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Haryana, Maharashtra, Jammu and Kashmir who had come to extend support for the three farm laws.
So far, five rounds of formal talks have remained inconclusive. The last round of was held on 5 December, while the sixth round that was originally scheduled for 9 December was called off after an informal meeting of home minister Amit Shah with some union leaders failed to yield a breakthrough.
The government had, however, followed up Shah's meeting with a draft proposal sent to the unions in which it had suggested 7-8 amendments to the new laws and written assurance on the MSP procurement system.
Thousands of farmers, especially from Punjab, Haryana and parts of Uttar Pradesh, camping at Delhi border points have threatened to intensify their stir in the coming days if their demands are not fulfilled.
The government has presented the new laws as major agriculture reforms aimed at helping farmers and increasing their income, but the protesting unions fear these Acts have left them at the mercy of big corporates by weakening MSP and mandi systems.
Sharad Pawar says Centre must take protest 'very seriously'
On Monday, NCP chief Pawar cautioned the Centre against taking the sustained protest lightly.
Adding that the Modi government should consider the agitation "very seriously", Pawar added that there should be a dialogue between the two sides.
Pawar said farmers are protesting on road in "shivering cold and it is a matter of concern". He was talking to reporters in Delhi after meeting CPM general secretary Sitaram Yechury.
Joining the debate on the farmers' protest, social activist Anna Hazare has threatened to go on a hunger strike if his demands on issues concerning farmers are not met by the Union government by the end of January, and said it would be his "last protest".
With inputs from PTI
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