NEW DELHI: The seventh round of negotiations between the farmers and the government remained inconclusive on Monday with the former sticking to their demand that the three central agri laws be repealed. However, both the parties have agreed to hold the eighth round of talks on January 7.
Here are the key developments of the day:
1. The seventh round of talks between protesting unions and three central ministers ended inconclusively as farmer groups stuck to their demand for the repeal of three farm laws, while the government listed out various benefits of the new Acts for the growth of the country’s agriculture sector. Agriculture minister Narendra Singh Tomar said he remains hopeful of a solution in the next meeting on January 8, but asserted that efforts need to be made from both sides for a solution to be reached (taali dono haathon se bajti hai). He also said no outcome could be reached in today’s meeting as farmer leaders remained adamant on one issue of repeal of the laws, but the government wanted a clause-wise discussion on the legislations to take forward the talks. Farmer leaders, however, alleged that it was the government’s “ego problem” that was coming in the way of resolving the issues and they insisted they would not relent on their key demands for the repeal of the three laws and a legal guarantee for the MSP (minimum support price) system for procurement of their crops.
2. From the very beginning of the meeting, farmer union leaders kept on insisting on the repeal of the three contentious farm laws and the two sides took a long break after just about one hour of discussions. During the break, representatives of protesting farmers had their own food, arranged from langar (community kitchen), as they have been doing for the last few times. However, unlike the last round of talks on December 30, the ministers did not join the union leaders for the langar food and were seen having their own discussion separately during the break, which lasted for almost two hours. The two sides got together again to resume their discussions at around 5.15 pm, but no headway could be made as the talks remained focussed on the farmers’ demand for the repeal of the Acts.
3. Farmer leaders said the government said it needs to consult internally and thereafter it would come back to the unions. Meanwhile, the union leaders will also have their own meeting on Tuesday to decide their next course of action. On Monday’s talks, another key demand of farmers for a legal guarantee to the MSP procurement system barely came up for discussion.
4. A few hours before the seventh round of talks between the farmers and the centre, the Congress said it would be a “true test of nationalism”, and warned no government can face the wrath of farmers “who believe they are being deceived”. Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said on Twitter, “Today is the true test of ‘Nationalism’. Will Modi Government act in ‘National Interest’ or ‘Crony Corporate Interest’.” The Congress has been demanding the repeal of the three farm laws whose enactment has triggered a massive protest by farmers. Congress leader Rahul Gandhi said those sitting under the dripping tents in the winter rains “are our own fearless farmers and not strangers”. There is nothing more left to be seen as far as the government’s “brutality” on farmers is concerned, he alleged, as he shared some pictures of agitating farmers braving the winter chill while protesting at Delhi’s borders. Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra said around 60 farmers have lost their lives in the course of the agitation due to the “government’s arrogance”.
5. Delhi chief minister and AAP convener Arvind Kejriwal appealed to the centre to accept all the demands of the protesting farmers and repeal the three farm laws. In a tweet ahead of the protesting farmer unions’ meeting with the centre, Kejriwal lauded their resolve in continuing their agitation despite rains and cold weather. “Salute to the resolve of the farmers staying firm on the roads despite rains and cold. I appeal to the Centre to accept all the demands of the farmers and repeal the three black farm laws in today’s meeting,” Kejriwal tweeted in Hindi.
6. Veteran actor and former MP Dharmendra said before Monday’s farmer-government talks that he prayed with all his heart that the farmers agitating against the three farm laws get justice. “I hope today my farmer brothers get justice. I pray with all my heart. Every noble soul will get relief,” Dharmendra, 84, wrote in Hindi on Twitter. This is not the first time the screen icon has spoken up in the wake of the farmers crisis. In December, Dharmendra urged the centre to find a solution to the protests over the farm laws. “I am in extreme pain to see the suffering of my farmer brothers. Government should do something fast,” he had tweeted.
7. As more people join their agitation, farmers protesting against the three farm laws at Delhi’s Singhu border have installed giant LED screens and speakers to reach out to as many protesters as possible. As their agitation entered the 37th day, the teams managing the farm unions have also equipped themselves with walkie-talkies to get in touch with each other and send out messages. From LED screens to blasting loudspeakers, the ongoing farmers’ protest at the Singhu border has gone hi-tech to optimise accessibility for protestors. With the number of protestors increasing, the management team of the Sanyukta Kisan Morcha realised that only a limited number of protestors could hear and see the leaders and hear their speeches. To resolve this issue, two 8×10 feet LED screens were installed near the stage, and speakers have been put up every few kilometres throughout the at least 10-km long stretch.
8. Haryana leader of opposition Bhupinder Singh Hooda said the Congress legislature party would provide a financial assistance of Rs 2 lakh each to families of farmers who have died during the agitation against the centre’s farm laws. Hooda said all Congress MLAs would make efforts to help the families. Hooda also demanded from the state government to provide financial help and government job to a member of each family. He said it was the responsibility of the government to do so as people have lost their lives because of its stubborn attitude and insensitivity. “In such a situation, the government should come forward to help the affected families without delay. If the present government does not do this, then this work will be done whenever the next Congress government is formed,” the former chief minister said.
9. Routes connecting Delhi to Ghaziabad and Noida via Ghazipur and Chilla borders remained partially closed due to the farmers’ protest, the traffic police said. They advised commuters to take alternative routes for coming to Delhi via Anand Vihar, DND, Bhopra and Loni borders. In a series of tweets, the traffic police said Singhu, Auchandi, Piau Maniyari, Saboli and Mangesh borders are closed for traffic movement. “Please take alternate route via Lampur Safiabad, Palla & Singhu school toll tax borders. Traffic has been diverted from Mukarba & GTK road. Please avoid Outer Ring Road, GTK Road & NH-44,” it said. “The Chilla and Ghazipur borders are closed for traffic coming from Noida & Ghaziabad to Delhi because of farmer protests. Please take alternate route for coming to Delhi via Anand Vihar, DND, Bhopra & Loni Borders,” it said. The traffic police said Tikri and Dhansa borders are also closed for traffic movement. “Jhatikara Border is open only for LMV (Cars/Light Motor Vehicles), two wheelers and pedestrian movement,” it said in another tweet. According to the traffic police, people travelling to Haryana can take the routes via Jharoda (only single carriageway), Daurala, Kapashera, Badusarai, Rajokri NH-8, Bijwasan/Bajghera, Palam Vihar and Dundahera borders.
10. Thirty-five students of Panjab University have written to Chief Justice of India (CJI) SA Bobde and other judges of the Supreme Court seeking an inquiry into alleged police atrocities on the farmers protesting at Delhi borders against the three farm laws. Aanchal Sawa, one of the signatories of the letter, said the apex court registry has provided the diary number to the letter which may be registered and heard as a PIL. In the open letter, the students of the Centre for Human Rights and Duties of the university have alleged that there has been “illegitimate use of water cannons, teargas shells and lathis on peaceful protesting farmers” by police authorities which needs to be probed. Seeking inquiry into police excesses and illegal detention of some protesters, the letter has also sought a direction to authorities “to withdraw all the cases against innocent farmers which were registered under political vendetta”. “Direct the governments at both Central and State level to ensure safety of all protesters, and provide basic amenities for all, especially women, children and elderly. Mobile toilet vans should be provided at protest places,” it said.