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Opinion

The prime minister’s new lure, but farmers toughen up

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Monday that farmers were being misled about three recently enacted laws aimed at liberalizing the sector and reached out to the farming community for the second time in two days, but protesters were camping on the Delhi borders looking for of the repeal of the legislation they insisted. There was no going back and he stressed that their demands were “non-negotiable.”

One day, the agitation of growers at two key entry points to Delhi entered its fourth day and continued to affect the movement of traffic to and from Haryana, the Union agriculture minister Narendra Singh Tomar announced that the government invited the leaders of the turmoil to talks on Tuesday. advancing for two days a meeting proposal between the central officials and the peasant community. The previous round of talks on November 13 included agricultural leaders, Tomar, and the minister of consumer affairs, food and railways, Piyush Goyal. Before that, another meeting was held on October 14.

“It was decided that the next round of talks will take place on December 3, but the farmers are agitated, it is winter and there is Covid-19. Therefore, the meeting should be held earlier.

Agricultural leaders, present for the first round of talks, were invited to Vigyan Bhavan on December 1 at 3 pm, ”he told the ANI news agency.

His announcement came hours after Modi called the controversial farm laws “historic” and reiterated that his government in the Center was committed to increasing farmers’ incomes. “Farmers are being misled about these historic agricultural reform laws by the same people who have misled them for decades,” Modi said in his constituency of Lok Sabha in Varanasi, apparently referring to opposition parties. However, he did not name anyone. “These same people in the past have played tricks with farmers on behalf of MSP (minimum support prices), loan waiver and fertilizer subsidy,” Modi said, while strongly supporting the new laws.

At the border points near Delhi, agricultural leaders appeared to have hardened their position, saying they marched into the capital for a “decisive battle” against the laws, which they say will negatively affect the MSP system that offers farmers guaranteed prices from the government. government. and help corporate players. “Our demands are non-negotiable … We have come here to fight a decisive battle,” said Balbir Singh Rajewal of the Bharatiya Kisan Union at a press conference on the Singhu border, which opens to Sonepat and is one of the two. key points blocked by farmers. He said the ruling party “will have to pay a heavy price” if it does not heed the concerns of farmers. Another farmer leader, Gurnam Singh Chaduni, said the uproar will continue until his demands are met.

On the occasion of Guru Nanak Jayanti, the protesters offered prayers and distributed “prasad” among themselves and also to the security personnel guarding the Singhu and Tikri borders (opens towards Bahadurgarh).

Thousands of protesters, especially from Punjab, have stayed at the two border points since November 27. The police have denied them entry to the capital and placed multi-layered barricades at the borders. Tractor cars have become temporary shelters with farmers spending cold nights under tarps in their vehicles as temperatures plummet. Many have brought rations and other essentials to get through this period.

On Sunday, the agricultural leaders who led the agitation established new terms for talks with the Union government, demanding the name of the Center and authorizing a Cabinet Committee or a Group of Ministers for future discussions. They also rejected the offer of the Union Interior Minister Shah to advance the date of the next round of talks and said that the Interior Ministry should not lead the discussions as agriculture was outside its jurisdiction.

Shah and Tomar met earlier Monday, the second such meeting in 24 hours, to discuss their course of action. And in the evening, Tomar announced that a section of agricultural leaders were summoned for talks on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, the Delhi Traffic Police advised travelers to take alternative routes to and from Haryana, with the border points at Singhu and Tikri blocked. Apart from the trafficking movement, the protest has already affected the supply of goods from Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir, leaving the city’s fruit and vegetable traders worried.

Delhi police put up concrete barriers and tightened security on Ghazipur’s border with Uttar Pradesh, as the number of protesters increased there as well. Barricades were also placed on the Noida border.

A small group that arrived at Nirankarai Samagam Ground in Burari on Saturday continued their demonstration there under police surveillance. Agricultural leaders said on Sunday that they will not move to the Burari protest site in north Delhi, as suggested by the Center, and threatened to block the five entry points into the city after a meeting of more than 30 groups.

A large part of farmers have demanded the repeal of the three laws enacted by Parliament in September, which together allow agribusinesses to freely trade agricultural products without restrictions, allow private traders to store large quantities of basic products for future sales and establish new rules for contract farming. Farmers say the reforms will make them vulnerable to exploitation by large corporations, erode their bargaining power, weaken the government’s MSP system, and eventually be detrimental to the agricultural sector, which supports nearly half of the population. with PM Modi taking the initiative.

In his Varanasi speech on Monday, Modi said that farmers who wanted to follow the old trading system, referring to the “mandis” where they can get the MSP, were still free to do so. All three laws gave farmers new options, he said. “Before, off-market transactions were illegal. Now the small farmer can also take legal action in every deal that is off the market, “added Modi. He said that whenever new laws are enacted, questions will inevitably be asked. “But currently a new trend is being seen in the country. The protests are based on generating doubts through disinformation ”. A day ago, he said in his radio address to Mann Ki Baat that the legislation added “new dimensions” to agriculture and related activities and broke the “shackles” of decades.

Despite Modi’s attempts to reach out to farmers, the opposition Congress party on Monday launched a social media campaign to rally support for farmers who are up in arms against the liberalization measure.

“The Modi government has persecuted the farmer – they first introduced black laws and then used them against them, but forgot that when the farmer raises his voice, it resonates across the country. It also raises its voice against the exploitation of farmers and joins the #SpeakUpForFarmers campaign, ”said Congress Leader Rahul Gandhi in a Hindi tweet.

Ashok Maheshwari, a political scientist at the Institute for Development Studies in Jaipur, said the government underestimated farmers’ opposition to the laws from the start. “… The government has said that the laws release intermediaries, but farmers see intermediaries as providers of necessary services. So the government seems to have underestimated the role of deep-rooted political-economic forces in agricultural trade, ”Maheshwari said.

(with contributions from the agency)

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