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Opinion

Agricultural talks stalled, another round on December 9

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The fifth round of talks between protesting farmers and the Center showed no signs of progress, dealing a blow to the government’s offer to introduce a series of amendments to the three new farm laws that farmers say will harm their interests. . The agricultural unions maintained their demand for a total withdrawal of the legislation, but agreed to another meeting on December 9.

With the stagnation persisting, farmer representatives said they would intensify their agitation as thousands of people besieged the capital’s entry points for the 10th day in a row. They have called for a national blockade on December 8.

The government team, led by Minister of Agriculture Narendra Tomar, Minister of Railways, Food and Consumer Affairs Piyush Goyal and Minister of State for Commerce Som Prakash, offered to make four major amendments to the set of agricultural laws during the conversations, although they did not present any written writing. material, an official said, requesting anonymity.

While the government has leaned on its new reform agenda to improve crop prices and increase investment in the agricultural sector, farmers say changes approved by Parliament in September would allow large corporations to exploit them.

On Saturday, the government proposed new rules for free markets provided for by the Agricultural Products Trade and Trade (Promotion and Facilitation) Act 2020, one of the laws that farmers oppose.

Before the meeting, Interior Minister Amit Shah, Tomar, Defense Minister Rajnath Singh and Goyal met with Prime Minister Narendra Modi for an hour to discuss the four amendments they had offered to make.

During the talks, the government made four verbal offers. One, offered to amend the Trade in Agricultural Products and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020, to impose trade tariffs on new free markets to create a level playing field between these and the traditional government-controlled notified markets.

Farmers say free markets, where traders don’t have to pay any trade fees, will wipe out the traditional markets they depend on for guaranteed prices for commodities.

Two, the government said it was open to implementing a registration system for traders in free markets to help provide transparency in agricultural trade, price levels and traders’ traceability.

Third, the government said it would incorporate new clauses into its new contract farming legislation, the 2020 Farmers ‘Agreement (Empowerment and Protection) on Price Guarantee and Agricultural Services, to strengthen farmers’ land tenure rights. .

Finally, officials said it would allow farmers to go to any civil court to resolve disputes with traders. Under the 2020 Farmers’ (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Agricultural Prices and Services Guarantee, such disputes were to be resolved at the level of a subdivisional magistrate within 30 days.

Farmers feel they should be free to go to higher courts, but the government has argued that restricting dispute resolution to the local level was done for faster resolution.

The talks stalled at one point, when farmers staged a silent protest in their seats during the discussions, according to Kavitha Kuruganti of the Women’s Farmers’ Rights Forum, a participant.

“We reject the proposed amendments. All members of the delegation have decided to remain silent. The government side was trying to get us out. There was absolute silence from our side, ”Kuruganti said.

Farmers held up banners asking the government to say “yes or no” to the demand for the total withdrawal of the laws, said Rakesh Tikait, leader of the influential Bharatiya Kisan Union (Tikait faction).

The government sought more time to come up with a “concrete proposal” and farmers’ “written suggestions” would help fuel the talks, Tomar said.

He called on farmer leaders to send elderly protesters and children home.

Kuruganti said the agriculture minister concluded by congratulating the farmers for holding “peaceful and disciplined protests, free of political parties.” “That is quite far from the initial view of the government that farmers were misled and instigated.”

Recent reforms in the antiquated agricultural sector allow companies to freely trade agricultural products outside of the so-called government-controlled mandi system, allow private traders to store large quantities of commodities for future sales, and establish new rules for contract farming. .

Farmers fear that the reforms could pave the way for the government to stop buying basic products at minimum support prices (MSP) set by the federal government, erode their bargaining power and leave them at the mercy of private buyers.

“The issue is not about one particular clause, but about the direction in which the government of India is pushing agriculture in India,” said Avik Saha, secretary of the Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee for All India ( AIKSCC).

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