From MSP guarantee to pathway for 'repealing' agri laws, a look at protesting farmers' proposed agenda for talks

The fears regarding the eventual 'dismantling' of the MSP system constitute a major sticking point in the talks

FP Staff December 29, 2020 14:49:34 IST
From MSP guarantee to pathway for 'repealing' agri laws, a look at protesting farmers' proposed agenda for talks

Representational image. AFP

The stalemate between farmers protesting the three new agriculture-related laws and the Centre is showing no signs of ending, with the number of agitating farmers swelling over the past month. All eyes are now on the next round of talks slated to be held on 30 December.

Ahead of the talks, the farmers have put forward four broad points on which they want the discussions to take place. The agenda points proposed by the farmers are procedure and modalities for repealing the three farm laws, provision of a legal guarantee for minimum support prices (MSP), removal of provision of punishment for stubble burning, and changes to the Electricity Act.

The decision to put forward these agenda points was taken at a meeting of the Sanyukt Kisan Morcha, an umbrella body of farmers’ organisations that have been protesting at various places along Delhi’s borders, as noted by a Newsclick report.

The report quoted Swaraj India leader Yogendra Yadav as saying on behalf of the farmers’ collective, “The government sent us letter after letter, but we take at least two days to reply after building consensus among us. We got a letter on 20 December, that was replied to on 23 December. Soon after our response, we got another letter on 24 December, wherein the government sought to know our agenda. We have let the government know, and now the ball is in its court.”

Until now, however, discussions have made little headway, with both sides sticking to their positions. Here is a brief look at each of the issues that the farmers want to be discussed at the meeting on Wednesday:

Modalities to repeal new farm laws: While the farmers want nothing short of a complete rollback of the laws, the Centre has refused to do so. The Centre has proposed watering down parts of the laws to allow states to levy market fees and to decide on who can be a buyer of farm produce. However, these announcements have not been enough to assuage the concerns of the farmers.

Legal guarantee on MSP: The fears regarding the eventual 'dismantling' of the MSP system constitute a major sticking point in the talks. The protesting farmers fear that allowing trade of farm produce outside APMCs would lead to lesser buying by the government agencies in the approved mandis, as noted by India Today. They say the new laws would thus make the MSP system irrelevant, and if that happens, they would not have any assured income from their farming.

The government has repeatedly assured that the MSP system will not be dismantled, including a statement to this effect by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. However, the protesters want the assurance to be written into law.

Action against farmers over stubble burning: The farmers have demanded the repealing of the ‘Commission on air quality management in NCR and adjoining areas Ordinance, 2020’, which deals with stubble burning. According to a report in The Print, the government has proposed dilution of fines for stubble burning and withdrawal of cases lodged against farmers in this regard.

Electricity (Amendment) Bill, 2020: With respect to the Electricity (Amendment) Bill, 2020, farmers fear that the proposed law will lead to growing privatisation of the power sector. The Bill proposes a National Selection Committee for the appointment of State Electricity Regulatory Commissions, and the establishment of an Electricity Contract Enforcement Authority (ECEA).

Previous rounds of talks

So far, five rounds of formal talks have remained inconclusive. The last round of was held on 5 December, while the sixth round 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.

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).

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.

With inputs from PTI

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