Farmers take hard line with Centre on MSP, repeal of laws day before talks; Tomar, Goyal meet Amit Shah
Various organisations affiliated to the Left parties, meanwhile, marched to Raj Bhavan in Bihar’s Capital Patna on Tuesday, demanding the scrapping of the agriculture laws
Farmers’ unions on Tuesday told the Centre that their sixth meeting on 30 December should focus on repealing the three agricultural laws.
In its letter, the Samyukt Kisan Morcha, which represents 40 farmer unions, said the discussion will be only on modalities for the repeal of three farm laws and a legal guarantee on MSP. The Centre has thus far failed to mollify the protestors who say the reforms threaten their livelihoods and pave the way for corporate exploitation.
Earlier in the day, Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar said that the Centre bulldozed the new agriculture laws without consulting the state governments.
Various organisations affiliated to the Left parties, meanwhile, marched to Raj Bhavan in Bihar’s Capital Patna on Tuesday, demanding the scrapping of the agriculture laws.
The Tikri and Singhu borders of Delhi remained shut on Tuesday as thousands of farmers continued to block highways in giant demonstrations against the new agricultural legislations.
It has been over a month now that thousands of farmers, especially from Punjab, Haryana, and parts of Uttar Pradesh, are camping at Delhi's borders seeking repeal of the three farm laws enacted in September by the Centre. They have threatened to intensify their stir in the coming days if their demands are not fulfilled.
The government has invited 40 protesting farmer unions on 30 December for the next round of talks on all relevant issues to find a "logical solution" to the current impasse over the three laws.
So far, five rounds of formal talks have remained inconclusive. The last round was held on 5 December, while the sixth round of talks originally scheduled for 9 December was called off a day after an informal meeting of Home Minister Shah with some union leaders failed to reach any breakthrough.
The government has presented these laws as major agriculture reforms aimed at helping farmers and increasing their income, but the protesting unions fear that the new legislations have left them at the mercy of big corporates by weakening the MSP and mandi systems.
Farmers take hard line on agenda
Protesting farmer unions Tuesday wrote to the Centre on the talks scheduled between the two sides on Wednesday, saying the discussion will only be on the modalities of repealing the three legislation and giving a legal guarantee on the MSP.
The government has invited the protesting farmers for the sixth round of talks on Wednesday. In its letter on Tuesday, the Samyukt Kisan Morcha, which represents 40 farmer unions, said the discussion will be only on modalities for the repeal of three farm laws and a legal guarantee on MSP.
The Morcha further said the agenda of the meeting should also include amendments to be made and notified in the commission for the Air Quality Management in National Capital Region and Adjoining Areas Ordinance, 2020 to exclude farmers from its penal provisions.
Through the letter, the Morcha also formally accepted the government's invitation for the dialogue.
Tomar, Goyal meet Amit Shah a day before crucial talks
In another related development, a day before the next round of talks between the Centre and the farmers protesting against the three new agri laws, Union ministers Narendra Singh Tomar and Piyush Goyal met senior BJP leader and home minister Amit Shah.
People familiar with the matter said they discussed and finalised the government's position for the Wednesday meeting.
Agriculture minister Tomar, railway minister Goyal and MoS Commerce and Industry Som Parkash have been representing the Centre in dialogues with the farmers.
Centre bulldozed three farm laws, says Sharad Pawar
NCP supremo and former agriculture minister Sharad Pawar on Tuesday accused the Centre of bulldozing three new farm laws without consulting states and asserted that agriculture cannot be run "sitting in Delhi" as it involves farmers toiling in distant villages.
As farmers' protest on Delhi borders against these laws has entered its second month and five rounds of talks so far have failed to resolve the crisis, Pawar also raised questions about the composition of the three-member ministerial group negotiating with the unions, saying the ruling party should have put forward leaders with "in-depth" understanding of agriculture and farmers' issues.
In an interview with PTI, the former Union minister said the government needs to take the protests seriously and it was "unfair" on the part of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to blame Opposition parties for the agitation by farmers.
He said Opposition parties will take a call on their future course of action on Wednesday if the government fails to resolve farmers' issue in the next scheduled meeting with representatives of 40 protesting unions.
Protesting farmers defer proposed tractor march to 31 Dec
Protesting farmer unions have deferred to Thursday their proposed tractor march against the contentious agriculture laws, so that the rally does not clash with their talks with the government on Wednesday.
Earlier this week, Samyukt Kisan Morcha — an umbrella body of 40 unions leading protests at Delhi border points — had announced a tractor march from the Singhu and the Tikri borders to the Kundli-Manesar-Palwal (KMP) Highway on 30 December.
"In view of our talks with the government (on 30 December ), we have decided to defer our tractor march. The farmers will hold a march with their tractors on 31 December," Abhimanyu Kohar, a senior member of Morcha, told PTI.
He said that as farmer leaders would have a meeting with Central ministers on Wednesday, the protesting unions have decided to defer their proposed tractor march.
Anti-farm bill demonstration lathi-charged in Patna, several injured
Several people were injured in a lathi-charge by Bihar Police during a march on Patna's Raj Bhavan, PTI reported.
Earlier Tuesday, thousands of protesters from various farmers organisations and pro-Left outfits marched on Raj Bhavan in Bihar’s Patna to demand the scrapping of the agriculture laws.
आज किसान संघर्ष समन्वय समिति के आह्वान पर पटना में आयोजित राजभवन मार्च सफल रहा। जुलुस पर पुलिस द्वारा लाठीचार्ज की कार्रवाई, घोर निन्दनीय। pic.twitter.com/H31WJH5zEy
— Awadhesh Kumar (@awadheshcpim) December 29, 2020
According to PTI, several were injured in a lathi-charge at a busy crossing in the heart of Patna when police personnel tried to halt the demonstrators. Traffic was thrown out of gear as thousands of protesters marched through Frazer Road before they were thwarted at the Dak Bungalow crossing.
Police said that the crackdown at Dak Bungalow crossing was preceded by skirmishes between the demonstrators and police and administrative officials at the Gandhi Maidan, the starting point of the rally, where the protesters took exception to their entry being allowed inside the sprawling public ground only through one of the many gates.
Police sources said the restriction was put in place to avoid a stampede-like situation. The demonstrators alleged that it was an attempt to suppress their voice.
Farmers, sympathisers continue to target telecom towers
Dozens of telecom towers in Punjab continued to be damaged by protesting farmers and sympathisers on Tuesday, ignoring the state government order to crackdown on those vandalising telecommunication masts.
Power supply to towers belonging to Reliance Jio was snapped and cables cut in parts of the state as farmers vented their anger on the infrastructure owned by billionaire Mukesh Ambani's firm as they saw him along with infrastructure tycoon Gautam Adani as major beneficiaries of the three new farm laws.
Neither Ambani's Reliance group nor Adani's companies are in the business of procuring food grains from farmers.Sources with knowledge of the matter said as many as 63 towers were damaged on Tuesday.
Jio repaired some of the towers that were damaged over the past few days, they said, adding 826 sites were down as of Tuesday afternoon.
The masts damaged were in places such as Amritsar, Bhatinda, Chandigarh, Firozpur, Jalandhar, Ludhiana, Pathankot, Patiala and Sangrur, the sources said. Jio has 9,000 plus towers in the state.
On Monday, Chief Minister Amarinder Singh asked police to take action against vandalisers. The "use of violence could alienate the protesters from the masses, which would be detrimental to the interests of the farming community," he had said in a statement
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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Farmer union tells SC to disband negotiation committee, appoint neutral members 'who can do the job'
In an affidavit, it also sought dismissal of a plea file by the Centre seeking an injunction against the proposed tractor march "which seeks to disrupt the gathering and celebrations of Republic Day on 26 January"
Farmer protests: Ninth round of talks ends, next meet on 19 Jan; govt urges unions to form informal grouping
Meanwhile, the Congress party shored up its attack against the Centre over the issue, with Rahul and Priyanka Gandhi leading protests in New Delhi
Farmer unions and opposition parties too had raised doubts over the composition of the panel, insisting that its members have been in favour of the three laws in the past. The panel is due to hold its first meeting on 19 January