Farmers' Protest: Consensus reached over power tarrifs and stubble burning, but deadlock on MSP, repeal of laws remains

The Centre proposed forming a committee to deliberate on the farmers' demands as it ruled out the possibility of repealing the legislations. The two sides are set to meet again on 4 January

FP Staff December 30, 2020 21:10:10 IST
Farmers' Protest: Consensus reached over power tarrifs and stubble burning, but deadlock on MSP, repeal of laws remains

The leaders of farmer unions hold the sixth round of talks with the Centre at Delhi's Vigyan Bhavan on Wednesday. PTI

The Centre, after its sixth meeting with the farmers’ unions on Wednesday, said that it had arrived at a consensus on two out of four matters flagged by the farmers.

The next round of talks will be held on 4 January.

Earlier in the meeting held at Delhi’s Vigyan Bhawan, the Centre proposed forming a committee to deliberate on the farmers' demands related to the agricultural laws, as it ruled out the possibility of repealing the legislations.

Meanwhile, the two sides reached some common ground to resolve farmers' concerns over the rise in power tariff and penalties for stubble burning, but remained deadlocked over the main contentious issues of the repeal and a legal guarantee for MSP.

Ahead of the meet, Union minister Som Parkash said that Wednesday’s discussion will be decisive. On the other hand, Sukhwinder Singh Sabra, joint secretary of the Punjab unit of Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Committee said his association did not think that an agreement will be reached. The previous five rounds of talks between the farmers and the Centre failed to produce any breakthroughs.

Tens of thousands of farmers, mostly from Punjab and Haryana, have been camping at Delhi’s borders. The protestors say the laws will dismantle regulated markets, and hurt their livelihoods by making them vulnerable to big corporations. They want the laws to be scrapped.

The Centre has refused to address the demand for repealing the laws. It did, however, offer to make amendments to certain sections along with a written guarantee on MSP.

Deadlock on MSP, repeal of farm laws

After nearly five hours of the sixth round of negotiations between three union ministers and a 41-member representative group of thousands of farmers protesting on Delhi borders, agriculture minister Narendra Singh Tomar said at least 50 percent resolution has been reached with mutual agreement on two out of four items on the agenda.

Discussions would continue on the remaining two on 4 January, Tomar added.

"Discussions on the three farm laws and MSP are continuing and will continue in the next round of talks on 4 January," Tomar told reporters after the meeting ended.

He said talks were held in a cordial atmosphere and the two sides reached an agreement on two issues:one relating to the proposed electricity law and the other about an ordinance on penal provisions for stubble burning.

He hailed the unions for maintaining peace and discipline during their protest, but urged them to send the elderly, women and children back to their homes due to the extreme cold.

Tomar said the union leaders kept insisting on the repeal of the three farm laws, but the government side tried to explain to them the benefits of the Acts and sought to know specific problems faced by the farmers.

On farmers' demand for a legal guarantee for procurement at Minimum Support Price (MSP), the minister said the government has already said that it is ready to give a written assurance.

"Talks will continue on these two issues," Tomar said.

After the meeting, Union leader Kalwant Singh Sandhu said Wednesday's talks mostly focussed on electricity and stubble burning, while the next meeting on 4 January would focus on the MSP guarantee and the three farm laws.

Tomar was accompanied by Food and Railways Minister Piyush Goyal and Minister of State for Commerce Som Parkash at the meeting.

Tomar, Goyal join farmers for tea break

Three union ministers, including Tomar, Piyush Goyal and Som Parkash joined farm leaders on Wednesday to share 'langar' food arranged by protesting farmers during their sixth round of talks to resolve the deadlock over new farm laws.

The 'langar' (community kitchen) food arrived in a van at the meeting venue, Vigyan Bhawan, after around two hours of discussions had taken place and the two sides took a break for tea and snacks.

During the last few meetings, farmer leaders have been arranging their own lunch, snacks and beverages while refusing to have the food organised by the government.

At one such meeting, farmer leaders had even invited the ministers to a langar at their protest site on Singhu border.

Before the start of the meeting, some union leaders had said farmers in some parts of the country are being forced to sell crops including paddy below the Minimum Support Price as market rates have fallen and asserted that the agitation will continue till the government agrees to their demands.

"After new farm laws were implemented in Uttar Pradesh, prices of crops have fallen by 50 percent. Crops are being bought at below MSP. Paddy is being sold at Rs 800 per quintal. We will raise these issues in the meeting," Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) leader Rakesh Tikait told reporters.

"We will not leave Delhi till our demands are met. We will celebrate New year at borders" he said.

'Talk directly to PM or Amit Shah'

The Shiromani Akali Dal and the Congress on Wednesday urged farmers protesting against the Centre's farm laws to talk directly with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, saying otherwise the dialogue will not yield any result.

Commenting on farmer leaders' meeting with the Centre over the laws on Wednesday, former Union minister and Akali Dal's Bathinda MP Harsimrat Kaur Badal said they shouldn't fall into the trap of extended meetings, which yield nothing.

Punjab Congress president Sunil Jakhar too favoured direct talks with the PM, saying the involvement of the prime minister or Union home minister is a must for a successful dialogue.

"Our farmers are on the cusp of victory. I appeal to them to hold direct talks with the PM to get these agri laws repealed," Badal said in a tweet.

They shouldn't fall into trap of extended meetings which yield nothing, the Bathinda MP added.

Badal, whose party had quit the BJP-led NDA due to differences over the issue earlier this year, said had the Centre listened to her warnings about repercussions of the laws, things could not have come to such an impasse.

People's will is supreme in a democracy, she said in another tweet tagging Prime Minister Narendra Modi's handle.

She urged the PM not to prolong the suffering of thousands of farmers sitting at Delhi borders against the laws.

Meanwhile, Punjab Congress chief Sunil Jakhar said for talks to be successful, the involvement of PM Modi or Union Home Minister Amit Shah is a must.

Jio seeks Punjab CM's intervention

With its telecom infrastructure in the state being damaged during farmers' protest, Reliance Jio has written to Chief Minister Amarinder Singh seeking his intervention for action against those responsible for the incidents of "sabotage and vandalism".

In a letter to the chief minister, Jio flagged the acts of sabotage and vandalism at its network sites "by unknown persons in the disguise of ongoing farmers agitation".

It alleged that the damage being inflicted is "deliberate" in nature with "ulterior motives and clear intent" of causing maximum disruption to the company's infrastructure and services.

"We humbly request for your kind intervention by a direction from your good office to the district administration to take action against the miscreants who caused this damage, and prevention of any further damage as apart from losses to the infrastructure, people of Punjab are suffering because their life is getting impacted severely in carrying out their day to day activity, education, business, study etc," Jio said in the letter to Amarinder on 27 December.

The letter said that those involved in incidents of sabotage and vandalization were even posting the videos and pictures on social media as if "boasting of their acts."

"...now the situation has worsened to the extent that many persons are openly moving and damaging our sites with weapons, posing a threat and risk not only to the telecom infrastructure but also to the life of thousands of our direct and indirect employees," said the letter was written by Tajinder Pal Singh Walia, State Head - Reliance Jio Infocomm, Punjab Circle.

Jio said that such is the extent of fear and threats looming in the environment that its own employees are being forced to get out of offices.

"Across Punjab, we have approximately 250 Jio offices and showrooms, but our employees are not being allowed to enter their own office which is causing a feeling of scare and insecurity and risk of employment and earning a livelihood to them," said the letter was seen by PTI.

With inputs from PTI

Disclaimer: Reliance Industries Ltd. is the sole beneficiary of Independent Media Trust which controls Network18 Media & Investments Ltd which publishes Firstpost

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