Govt offers written assurance; Farmer unions reject proposal
New Delhi: As thousands of farmers continue to protest at various borders of the national capital demanding the repeal of three new farm laws, the government on Wednesday proposed to give a “written assurance” that the existing Minimum Support Price (MSP) regime for procurement will continue.
However, the farmers’ unions rejected the proposal and said they would intensify their agitation until the government accepts their demand for a complete repeal of the three laws.
The government also proposed to make necessary amendments on at least seven issues, including one to allay fears about the weakening of the mandi system.
In a draft proposal sent to 13 agitating farmer unions, the government also said it is ready to provide all necessary clarifications on their concerns about the new farm laws enacted in September, but it did not mention anything about the main demand of protesting farmers for the repeal of the laws.
At a press conference later in the day, farmer leaders said there was nothing new in the government proposal and they will continue their protest.
Separately, Union Minister Prakash Javadekar said at a post-Cabinet media briefing that the government is sensitive to the concerns of farmers as he expressed hope that ongoing deliberations with them, which he termed a “work in progress”, over the three agriculture-related laws will yield some results soon.
He said the government has held several rounds of talks with the farmers agitating against the three legislations and is keen to resolve their issues.
Home Minister Amit Shah in Tuesday night’s meeting with 13 union leaders had said the government would send a draft proposal on key issues raised by the farmers regarding the three farm laws, even though the meeting had failed to break the ice with farm union leaders who are insisting for repealing these laws.
The sixth round of talks between the government and farm union leaders, which was scheduled for Wednesday morning, has also been cancelled.
In the proposal, sent by Agriculture Ministry Joint Secretary Vivek Aggarwal, the government said is ready to consider with an open heart the objections which farmers have on the new farm laws.
“The government has tried to address the concerns of farmers with an open heart and with respect for the farming community of the country. The government appeals the Kisan unions to end their agitation,” it said.
On farmers’ fears that mandis would weaken after the new laws, the government said an amendment can be made wherein state governments can register the traders operating outside mandis. States can also impose tax and cess as they used in APMC (Agricultural Produce Market Committee) mandis on them.
On concerns that farmers may be duped as anyone having just a pan card is allowed to trade outside APMC mandis, the government said to rule out such apprehensions, the state governments can be given the power to register such traders and make rules keeping in mind the local situation of farmers.
On the issue of farmers not getting the right to appeal in civil courts for dispute resolution, the government said it is open to making an amendment to provide for an appeal in civil courts. Currently, the dispute resolution is at SDM level.
On fears that big corporates will take over farmlands, the government said it has already been made clear in the laws, but still, for clarity’s sake, it can be written that no buyer can take loans against farmland nor any such condition will be made to farmers.
On attaching farmland under contract farming, the government said the existing provision is clear but still it can be clarified further if required.
On fear about the scrapping of the MSP regime and shifting of trade to private players, the government said it is ready to give a written assurance that the existing MSP will continue.
On demands to scrap the proposed Electricity Amendment bill 2020, the government said there won’t be any change in the existing system of electricity bill payment for farmers.
On farmers’ demand to scrap the Air Quality Management of NCR Ordinance 2020, under which there is the provision of penalty for stubble burning, the government said it is ready to find an appropriate solution.
The draft proposal has been sent to 13 farm union leaders including Joginder Singh Urgrahan of BKU (Ekta Ugrahan), one of the biggest among nearly 40 agitating unions.
“Farmer unions have received the draft proposal from the government,” Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) national spokesperson Rakesh Tikait told PTI. He is one of the many union leaders participating in the ongoing negotiations with the government.
The government has proposed seven amendments in the two new laws — The Farmers Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020 and The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020.
However, it has not touched The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020 at all.
The government said India can achieve food security only with the hard work of farmers.
“During Green Revolution, farmers of Punjab, Haryana and Western Uttar Pradesh had played a big role. To ensure food security, buying grains at MSP is the government’s priority,” it noted.
The government further said the new laws were enacted to give more options for farmers to sell their produce along with the existing mandis so that farmers are able to get a better price and are able to grow high-end crops for that market. The idea was to give farmers the freedom to sell their produce like other producers.
On farmers’ demand to provide registration of farming contracts, the government said till state governments make an arrangement for registration, an appropriate facility will be provided at the SDM office wherein a copy of the contract can be submitted 30 days after its signing.
On Constitutional validity of farm laws, the Centre said it has the power under Entry 33 of the Concurrent List to pass laws on contract farming and intra- and inter-state trade, and prohibit states from imposing fees/cess outside APMC areas. It had followed legal provisions while enacting the laws and earlier for bringing ordinances, it added.
Farmers to intensify agitation with nationwide protest on Dec 14
New Delhi: Farmer leaders Wednesday rejected a government proposal on the three contentious agriculture-marketing laws, and said they would intensify their agitation against the legislations with a nationwide protest on December 14.
They also said they will block the Jaipur-Delhi and the Delhi-Agra expressways on or before December 12, and all the roads entering into the national capital, one-by-one, if their demands are unmet.
Farmer leader Shiv Kumar Kakka told a press conference here that there was nothing new in the government’s proposal sent to them on Wednesday, and that it was “completely rejected” by the ‘Sanyukta Kisan Committee’.
Farmer leader Jangvir Singh said that their unions may consider if the government sends another proposal.
Kakka said the farmers have decided to intensify their agitation, and that they will block all roads leading to Delhi one by one if the three farm laws are not scrapped.
Another farmer leader, Darshan Pal, said the proposals sent by Union Home Minister Amit Shah contained the same things as Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar told farmer leaders in previous meetings.
All the highways to Delhi will be blocked on December 14 as part of the nationwide protest, he said. The Union Home Minister had Tuesday evening met 13 representatives of the protesting farmers, but the their talk failed to break the impasse. The farmers continue to protest at several border points of Delhi, demanding the government scrap all the three laws.
The government has been defending these laws, saying they will benefit the farmers in the long run and raise their incomes.