There is no alternative to farmers’ demands of legal guarantee for MSP and repealing the new agri laws, farmer leaders said on Thursday, a day after talks between the Centre and the protesting unions remained deadlocked over the two contentious issues.
However, the government and farmer unions after nearly five hours of the sixth round of negotiations on Wednesday reached some common ground to resolve protesting farmers’ concerns over rise in power tariff and penalties for stubble burning.
Thousands of farmers, mainly from Punjab and Haryana, are protesting at various borders of the national capital for more than a month against the laws and are demanding that these be repealed.
Senior farmer leader Gurnam Singh Chaduni said that the Samkyukt Kisan Morcha has called another meeting on Friday to discuss the next course of action. However, there is no question of withdrawing from the two issues which are legal guarantee for minimum support price (MSP) and repealing of the farm laws, he said.
“The government has addressed our demands to drop penal provisions against farmers in an ordinance relating to stubble burning and to put on hold a proposed electricity amendment law,” Mr Chaduni said.
“But, we want to make it clear that there is no alternative to our two remaining demands which include repeal of the three agriculture laws and legal guarantee for MSP,” he said.
The All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee, one of the protesting farm unions, issued a statement on Thursday, saying that the Centre’s appeal to farmer leaders to suggest an alternative to repeal of the laws is impossible.
“The new laws will hand over control of agriculture markets, farmers’ land and food chain to corporates,” AIKSCC claimed in its statement.
It stated that unless these farm laws are repealed, there is no scope to discuss pro farmer changes in “mandis” (markets) and farm processes for ensuring doubling of farmers’ income.
After attending the meeting with Union ministers on Wednesday, All India Kisan Sabha leader and CPI(M) politburo member Hannan Mollah had said, “The discussion has not broken, it is on. Out of four issues on the agenda, two have been addressed and the remaining two — MSP legalisation and repeal of three laws — are to be resolved.”
“The government’s attitude was soft (sarkar ka ravaiya naram tha). The government said it has agreed to two demands and there are complexities in the rest two. They asked us to send a fresh proposal based on today’s discussion,” he had said.
The sixth round of talks was originally scheduled for December 9 but it was called off after an informal meeting of Home Minister Amit Shah with some union leaders failed to reach any breakthrough.
The three Union ministers at the Wednesday meeting were Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar, Food and Railways Minister Piyush Goyal and Minister of State for Commerce Som Parkash and they met a 41-member representative group of the thousands of protesting farmers.
The protests are being staged against the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020, the Farmers Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020, and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020.
The government has presented these laws, enacted in September, 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.