Farmers' Protest: Govt ready to discuss every clause; Kejriwal warns new laws could lead to inflation

The heads of 32 farmer unions on Monday held a nine-hour hunger strike from 8 am to 5 pm as part of their plan to intensify their agitation from 14 December

FP Staff December 14, 2020 20:51:17 IST
Farmers' Protest: Govt ready to discuss every clause; Kejriwal warns new laws could lead to inflation

Farmers participate in a hunger strike during their protest against the Centre's farm reform laws, in Hisar district, Haryana on Monday. PTI

As the agitation against the three contentious farm laws entered its 19th day on Monday, Union agriculture minister Narendra Singh Tomar said the Centre was ready to discuss every clause of the three contentious farm laws with the protesting farmers and that the government is engaging with farmer leaders to decide on the next date of talks.

The heads of 32 farmer unions on Monday held a nine-hour hunger strike from 8 am to 5 pm as part of their plan to intensify their agitation from 14 December.

A farmer leader claimed district level protests were held in various states, including Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Odisha, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Bihar.

"We wanted to send out a strong message to the government that it is not just an agitation by Punjab farmers but also an agitation of farmers from across the nation,” said Shiv Kumar Kakka, one of those who went on a nine-hour hunger strike at Singhu, the main access point into the city from Punjab.

However, leaders of the Bhartiya Kisan Union (Ekta Ugrahan), who had organised an event to demand the release of jailed activists last week, had decided to distance themselves from the strike call. Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal also joined the fasting protestors.

Meanwhile, social activist Anna Hazare has written to Tomar warning "resumption of a hunger strike" against the Centre's "failure" to fulfil his demands including the implementation of the recommendations made by MS Swaminathan Commission. Hazare's other demand include granting autonomy to the Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices (CACP).

"The Centre had assured that it would take appropriate action on the demands on the basis of the committee's report. Since nothing has been done till date to that effect, I am thinking to resume the hunger strike which was called off on 5 February, 2019," Hazare wrote in his letter to Tomar. The octogenarian said the Centre would be soon apprised of the date and venue of the fast.

Tens of thousands of farmers, mostly from Punjab and Haryana, have been protesting at key entry points to Delhi. The farmers fear the agricultural reforms will weaken the minimum support price mechanism under which the government buys agricultural produce, will lead to the deregulation of crop-pricing, deny them fair remuneration for their produce and leave them at the mercy of corporations.

'Speaking to farmers to decide next date of talks'

The government is engaging with farmer leaders to decide on the next date of talks, the Union agriculture minister said, as unions intensified their agitation against the Centre's three farm laws and observed a day-long fast on Monday.

"The meeting will definitely happen. We are engaging with farmers," Tomar told PTI. The government is ready for discussion anytime. The farmer leaders have to "decide and convey" when they are ready for the next meeting, he added.

Tomar is leading the negotiations with 40 farmer unions, along with food minister Piyush Goyal and Minister of State for Commerce and Industries Som Parkash.

Previous five rounds of talks between the Centre and 40 farmer unions' leaders have remained inconclusive.

The government has sent a draft proposal along with written assurance of continuing the minimum support price (MSP) system to them for consideration, but farmer unions have rejected it and demanded repeal of the laws.

These laws are meant for transforming the lives of farmers, Tomar said, adding that the government policy and its intention behind these laws are clear.

"We tried to convince farmers and farmer unions leaders. Our wish is that they come for a clause-by-clause discussion. If they are ready to express their views clause by clause, we are ready for discussion," he said.

Tomar also indicated that the government will not repeal the laws.

Earlier in the day, Tomar met home minister Amit Shah and discussed the way forward to end the deadlock.

AIKCC delegation extends support for laws in Tomar meet

In another related development, a delegation of farmers, led by All India Kisan Coordination Committee (AIKCC), met Tomar on Monday to extend their support to the contentious legislations.

This is the fourth group of farmers to have extended their support to the laws in the past two weeks. The previous groups were from Haryana and Uttarakhand.

Led by its general secretary Gunavath Patil Hangergekar, the AIKCC, which has its presence in 28 states, submitted a representation to the Agriculture Minister seeking continuation of the three farm laws, though with some amendments.

"We got to see the light of these laws after many years of struggle. We are aware that farmers protesting at Delhi borders are misled by some forces. We don't want such forces to take away the freedom the laws aim to give to farmers across the country," Patil told PTI after the meeting.

Some amendments pertaining to dispute resolutions are required to protect the interest of farmers, otherwise the laws in general are in favour of the farming community, he said.

"We want the government to set up a tribunal to fast-track dispute resolutions if an agreement between two parties is violated. It is because sub-divisional magistrates and deputy commissioners do not have time, and civil courts take a long time to settle the case," Patil said.

'Farm laws will lead to immense inflation'

Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said the new farm laws will lead to immense inflation and will only favour a few capitalists, as he termed the legislations "anti-farmer and anti-common man".

Kejriwal, who joined AAP leaders, MLAs and volunteers at the party office in observing a day-long fast in support of the protesting farmers, said the new farm laws "gives license to inflate".

Addressing volunteers, Kejriwal said this law says people can hoard as much as they want.

"I appeal to parties to stop playing dirty politics over farmers' issue. These laws are anti-farmer and anti-aam aadmi and are aimed to benefit a few capitalists. These laws will lead to immense inflation through hoarding. These legislations gives license to inflate," Kejriwal said.

Due to these laws, wheat will become four times more expensive in the coming years, he said.

"Don't think you are doing a favour by supporting farmers. Farmers are doing a favour by protesting against these laws," he said.

AAP leader and spokesperson Raghav Chadha, who was fasting along with other AAP leaders, said whoever is calling the farmers protesting against the new agriculture-marketing laws as "anti-nationals" are themselves against the country, and they should go to Pakistan.

The AAP MLA said there are some people referring to the agitating farmers, who are the country's food-providers, as "anti-nationals".

"I want to tell those people calling the farmers as anti-national that you are the ones who are anti-nationals and you should go to Pakistan. They have no place in India," Chadha said.

UP chief of BKU (Bhanu) begins indefinite fast against farm laws

A leader of the Bharatiya Kisan Union (Bhanu) started an indefinite fast at the Chilla border between Noida and Delhi on Monday amid ongoing farmers' protests.

Yogesh Pratap Singh, the Uttar Pradesh unit chief of the BKU-Bhanu, was joined by scores of supporters, including the union's national president and his father Thakur Bhanu Pratap Singh.

The protest is underway and will continue till our demands are not fulfilled by the Centre, BKU-Bhanu's senior IT cell member Satish Tomar told PTI.

He also trashed murmurs of ending the protest after some members left the faction over disagreement on opening the Chilla border two days ago.

Some people from other farmers' union had joined our group in December and now they are saying they have left Bhanu group and are spreading lies about our protest, Tomar claimed.

Samajwadi Party workers clash with police in UP

In Uttar Pradesh, Samajwadi Party workers held demonstrations backing the farmers' demands and clashed with police at various places.

Following clashes with police, several Samajwadi Party leaders and workers were taken in custody in various districts of Uttar Pradesh.

In Lucknow, the SP workers clashed with police in the Kaisarbagh area on being stopped from proceeding to the district collectorate. Several SP workers, including women, were also taken into custody.

In Agra too, television footage showed police using mild force to disperse protesting Samajwadi Party workers.

SP MLC Rajpal Kashyap claimed from Sandila in Hardoi district that he has been arrested and many other party leaders have been put under house arrest for siding with farmers.

"Samajwadi Party supports farmers' demands. Its sympathy lies with farmers. The Kisan Yatra was started by the SP on 7 December. The party workers are holding a dharna at all the district headquarters in the state today. I have been arrested in Sandila and many party leaders are under house arrest," Kashyap told- PTI.

In Gorakhpur too, police detained several SP leaders and workers including the district president proceeding to participate in a sit-in at Nagar Nigam office campus.

With inputs from PTI

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