Drop stubborn stand, discuss laws clause by clause, Centre tells farmers; prepared to protest till 2024, says BKU
BKU leader Rakesh Tikait said that farmers are prepared to protest against the farm laws 'till May 2024', and termed the ongoing agitation as an 'ideological revolution'
On Sunday, the Centre and protesting farmers remained at loggerhead over the contentious agri laws on Sunday with the farmers saying they will go ahead with the proposed tractor parade in Delhi on Republic Day and Union agriculture minister Narendra Singh Tomar stating that the government is not ready to discuss the complete withdrawal of the laws.
The withdrawal of the laws is the main demand of the farmers, who have staged a protest at Delhi's borders for over 50 days.
Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) leader Rakesh Tikait on Sunday said that farmers are prepared to protest against the farm laws "till May 2024", and termed the ongoing agitation as an "ideological revolution".
Meanwhile, at a rally in Karnataka, home minister Amit Shah said that "doubling" farmers' income was the "biggest priority" of the Narenda Modi government and that the three central farm laws will ensure manifold hike in their earnings.
'Will go ahead with tractor march on Republic Day'
Addressing a press conference at the Singhu border protest site, farmer union leader Yogendra Yadav said, "We will carry out a tractor parade on the Outer Ring Road in Delhi on Republic Day. The parade will be very peaceful. There will be no disruption of the Republic Day parade. The farmers will put up the national flag on their tractors."
The Centre had moved the Supreme Court seeking an injunction against the proposed tractor march or any other kind of protest by farmers "which seeks to disrupt" the gathering and celebrations of Republic Day on 26 January. The matter is pending in court.
Another farmer union leader, Darshan Pal Singh, alleged that the National Investigation Agency (NIA) is filing cases against those who are part of the protest or supporting it.
"All farmer unions condemn this," Pal said, referring to the NIA summons reportedly issued to a farmer union leader in a case related to the banned Sikhs For Justice outfit.
Addressing a presser in Nagpur on Sunday, Tikait said the farmers want a legal guarantee on Minimum Support Price (MSP).
Asked how long will farmers will sit in protest, Tikait said, "We are prepared to sit in protest till May 2024... our demand is that the three laws be taken back and the government provide a legal guarantee on the MSP."
His remarks are supposedly in reference to the next Lok Sabha elections in the country, which will be held over April-May 2024. Dismissed allegations that the protest was being fuelled by "rich farmers", Tikait said people from villages and various outfits have joined the protest.
"This is an ideological revolution of farmers started from Delhi and will not fail. Farmers from villages do not want us come back until the three farm bills are taken back," he said. "The government is adamant on its stance of not withdrawing the bills and this agitation will continue for long," Tikait added.
He welcomed the SC's decision on staying the implementation of the farm laws, but said the committee formed by the apex court is comprised of members who "supported" the farm bills.
"We do not want to go before the committee formed by the court. The government has also said that the government and farmers will find solution on this issue," he said.
'Give up stubborn stand'
Ahead of the tenth round of talks scheduled on 19 January, Tomar urged protesting farm leaders to give up their "stubborn" stand on the new farm laws and come for a clause-by-clause discussion.
"Now that the Supreme Court has stayed the implementation of these laws, then there is no question of being stubborn," Tomar told reporters before leaving for his home constituency of Morena in Madhya Pradesh.
"The government wants farmer leaders to engage in a clause-by-clause discussion at the next meeting on 19 January. Except for the demand of repealing the laws, the government is ready to consider other alternatives seriously and with an open heart," he said.
The Supreme Court on 11 January had stayed the implementation of the three laws till further orders and appointed a four-member panel to resolve the impasse. However, a member of the panel, farmer leader Bhupinder Singh Mann recused himself from it on 14 January.
Tomar added the government offered certain concessions, but the farmer leaders have not shown flexibility and were constantly demanding a repeal of the laws.
He reiterated that the government makes laws for the entire country. He also claimed that "many farmers, experts and other stakeholders have supported the laws".
So far, the nine rounds of formal talks between the Centre and 41 farmer unions have failed to yield any concrete results to end the long-running protest at Delhi's borders as the latter have stuck to their main demand of a complete repeal of the three Acts.
SC to hear pleas on farm laws tomorrow
The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear on Monday the pleas relating to controversial farm laws and the ongoing farmers' protest. The apex court may take into account the matter of Mann's recusal from the court-appointed committee.
The committee comprised farmer leader Bhupinder Singh Mann, Dr Parmod Kumar Joshi, Director for South Asia, International Food Policy Research Institute; Ashok Gulati, agricultural economist and former chairman of the Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices; and Anil Ghanwat, president of Shetkari Sanghatana.
The court had said it will hear the pleas against the farm laws after eight weeks when the committee will give its suggestions to resolve the impasse after talking to the protesters and the government.
However, the court's efforts hit a hurdle after Mann recused himself from the committee. A bench, also comprising justices L Nageswara Rao and Vineet Saran, on Monday may take remedial actions like appointing a person to replace Mann in the panel.
On Saturday, farmer union, Bhartiya Kisan Union Lokshakti, filed an affidavit requesting the top court to remove the remaining three members of the committee and select people who can do the job "on the basis of mutual harmony".
The farmers' body said the principle of natural justice is going to be violated as those appointed to the four-member committee "have already supported these laws".
'Doubling farmers' income is highest priority'
Addressing a rally in Karnataka, Shah said that since coming to power, the Modi government had increased the budget for the farm sector and also the MSP for various crops.
"I want to say that if there is any big priority of the Narendra Modi government it is to double the farmers income," he said.
"The Narendra Modi government is a government dedicated to farmers. Three new laws that the Modi government has brought in, which the Karnataka government has also passed... I want to congratulate Yediyurapp for it. Farmer's income will increase multifold due to them," he added.
"Farmers are not compelled anymore to sell their produce at one place and can get access to global and Indian markets of choice for their crops," he said.
Thousands of farmers have been protesting at various border points of Delhi for over a month demanding the repeal of the three laws — the Farmers' Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, and the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act.
Enacted in September 2020, the Central Government has presented these laws as major farm reforms aimed at increasing farmers' income, but the protesting farmers have raised concerns that these legislations would weaken the minimum support price (MSP) and "mandi" (wholesale market) systems and leave them at the mercy of big corporations.
The government has maintained that these apprehensions are misplaced and has ruled out a repeal of the laws.
With inputs from agencies
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