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Opinion

‘The government has no ego’: Tomar calls on agricultural leaders to resume talks

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Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar on Thursday called on agricultural unions to resume talks with the government, asking them not to draw up new plans to intensify their agitation against three new laws that aim to liberalize the agricultural economy. .

Tomar, along with Union Railways Minister Piyush Goyal, said the government was open to further negotiations with agricultural leaders to find a solution.

“Any law is never entirely good or bad. Therefore, we have tabled amendments to the provisions that farmers were apprehensive about during discussions, ”Tomar said.

“The government has no ego. The government was, is and always will be open to dialogue, ”said Tomar. He added that if farm unions raise specific questions about the laws, the government can work to find solutions.

In September, the government deregulated agricultural markets, giving private traders more space to stimulate investment in an agricultural sector that relies on subsidies. Thousands of farmers are protesting the changes, saying they will be absorbed by large corporations.

On Wednesday, the government offered in writing the concessions it was willing to make. He proposed giving states a greater role in so-called free markets and a written guarantee to continue the system of minimum support prices (MSP), which offers farmers guaranteed prices set by the state for basic products.

“We have addressed all the problems that had arisen from the discussions. There is nothing in the law that could affect purchases at minimum support prices. The laws categorically establish that there can be no leasing, confiscation or auction of a farmer’s land, ”Goyal said.

The government has proposed to amend the Trade in Agricultural Products and Trade (Promotion and Facilitation) Act of 2020 to achieve parity between so-called free markets and notified markets controlled by state governments.

Another key offer is to provide additional legal safeguards for the rights of farmers engaged in contract farming “if necessary”, including a ban on any confiscation of farmland to recover quotas, and possible immunity to farmers from penalties for burning crop residues, which causes pollution.

Tomar urged farmers not to suspend discussions and said farmers should say if they had any objections to the government’s written proposal.

Farmers on Wednesday rejected the government’s proposal to table amendments, saying they were basically based on proposals that the agricultural unions had already rejected. “The government has avoided responding to farmers’ opposition that farm laws only help corporations and multinationals, they will increase input costs, losses, debts and the displacement of farmers from the land,” Yogendra said. Yadav from Swaraj India, who is leading the agitation under the general platform All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee.

Agricultural unions said on Thursday that they would occupy the toll plazas and block the Jaipur-Delhi highway on December 12 and organize protests from December 14.

Tens of thousands of farmers, mostly from Punjab, protest a set of market-friendly farm laws by camping on the borders of Delhi. Farmers have been stocking up on supplies for months, preparing to dig for months.

Goyal said that a large number of farmers in various states have welcomed the laws. “Recent results from [panchayat] the elections in Rajasthan make that clear, ”Goyal said. The Minister of Railways was referring to the BJP’s victories in the panchayat polls in Rajasthan, a state ruled by Congress.

Goyal also said that the new laws give local magistrates the final authority to resolve disputes between merchants and farmers in 30 days because the government’s view was that farmers can find it cumbersome to fight protracted court battles.

Agricultural unions have opposed this provision. “That is why the government’s proposal on this is that amendments will be made to allow farmers to approach the civil courts of their choice,” Goyal said.

Tomar said the Modi government remains committed to the well-being of the agricultural community and has implemented policies to increase farm income and increase the share of agriculture in the country’s gross domestic product.

“These proposals do not address most of our concerns. Despite rejecting the government’s offer of amendments, it has repeated the same proposals, ”said Kirankumar Vissa of Rythu Swarajya Vedika, a farmer representative.

The new laws allow companies to freely trade agricultural products outside the so-called “mandi system” controlled by the government, allow private traders to store large quantities of basic products for future sales, and establish new rules of contract farming.

Experts said the unrest is the first “sustained challenge” the government has faced. “These are the first sustained challenge facing the Modi government at ground level. An escalation will further test the political limits of the Bharatiya Janata Party, ”said KK Kailash, who teaches in the department of political science at Hyderabad University.

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