The government asks farmers to come to the talks and voice their objections
Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar has urged protesting agricultural unions to explain their “apprehensions” about a set of farm laws in greater detail so that discussions can focus on specific objections, saying that farmers’ complaints they lack “clarity”.
The minister also said that farmers should give up a “yes or no” demand on the removal of farm laws and that only a discussion on specific issues can fuel talks and end the unrest. Thousands of farmers have crouched on the capital’s borders for nearly a month to protest laws that they say will benefit only businesses. The minister urged farmers to specify an upcoming date for the talks, but the agricultural unions have not yet shown any signs of resuming negotiations with the government.
Union Interior Minister Amit Shah said Tomar is likely to hold talks with the protest groups in a day or two to discuss their demands. “I am not exactly aware of the moment, but it is likely that Tomar will meet with the representatives of the farmers tomorrow or the day after tomorrow to discuss their demands,” Shah told a news conference in West Bengal.
Farmers unions have announced a one-day relay hunger strike on Monday at all protest sites to push for the repeal of the new laws.
Also read: Farmers will start relay hunger strike starting today to increase pressure on the government
On Sunday, a senior bureaucrat from the agriculture ministry wrote a letter on behalf of the agriculture minister to Darshan Pal, one of the top leaders of the agricultural unions. Pal had sent an email on December 16 to the agriculture minister, rejecting a series of “written proposals” from the government to resolve the crisis.
The government responded to Pal’s email on Sunday saying it was unclear what the farmers were trying to say. “The reply you send us via email is very brief. It is not clear whether the opinions expressed in that email are his personal opinion or the collective opinion of all agricultural organizations, ”said the government letter, signed by Deputy Secretary Vivek Agarwal. HT has reviewed a copy of the letter.
The bureaucrat claimed the email “lacked clarity” on the grounds that agricultural unions had rejected the government’s written proposals. The letter to the agricultural leader said that agricultural unions had repeatedly rejected the government’s conciliatory gestures, including concrete offers.
Thousands of farmers are protesting the three laws pushed by the government in September that allow agribusinesses to trade with minimal regulation, allow traders to store large amounts of food products for economies of scale, and establish new contract farming rules. The upheaval has launched a political challenge to the government led by Narendra Modi.
Farmers say the new rules favor large corporations with which they will lose business and gradually end the minimum price system set by the state.
Also read: A wall of requirements established at the Chilla protest site
The farmers decided to suspend further negotiations on December 8, after a meeting with Shah.
On December 9, the government sent a set of written proposals to amend some provisions of the laws for greater oversight of deregulated markets, avoiding penalties for farmers for burning stubble, which causes pollution, and promising to continue providing subsidized energy to farmers instead of direct cash transfers.
Pal, who heads the Krantikari Kisan Sangathan and is a key negotiator with the government, had summarily rejected the proposals, saying that the unions will not suspend their agitation until the laws are fully repealed.