India

Farmers cancel meeting with GoI, say will decide after Govt shares draft proposal

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New Delhi: Amid the widespread protests by farmers in Delhi on three farm laws passed by the parliament of India this year in September, farmers have cancelled the meeting scheduled on Wednesday and decided to discuss their next move after the government of India shares with them the draft proposal with amendments in the contentious farm laws.

Quoting Bharatiya Kisan Union spokesperson Rakesh Tikait, a report by Hindustan Times said that their meeting with the GoI leadership on Wednesday stands cancelled and they will discuss and decide on their next move after the government shares with them the draft proposal with amendments in the contentious farm laws enacted in September.

An official confirmed that the crucial sixth round of talks with protesting farmers’ unions has been cancelled due to farm leaders’ refusal to attend, according to news agency PTI.

“We’ll hold a meeting over the draft that will be sent by the Centre. That meeting is cancelled. Draft will be discussed & further course of action will be decided. We hope things will be clear by 4-5 pm today,” Tikait was quoted as saying by news agency ANI.

The announcement comes a day after a group of 14 leaders of the agricultural community met Home Minister of India Amit Shah to resolve the ongoing farmers’ agitation triggered by agri laws that they say will hurt their incomes and benefit large corporations.

Quoting Hanan Mollah of the Kisan Sabha, the report said that Shah had said the government would propose amendments related to a fee structure in notified agriculture produce market committees (APMCs), stricter provisions to safeguard farmers’ land rights, strengthening of notified markets, and a guarantee on minimum support prices (MSPs) in Wednesday’s meeting.

Farmers say government-controlled notified markets will collapse due to competition from deregulated markets under the new laws, as trade in the latter will be free of any fees or service charges.

“The government is likely to present a plan spelling out specific measures to strengthen notified markets, such a fee structure so that both new free markets and notified markets can co-exist in a true competitive spirit,” the report quoted an official as saying.

Pertinently, anger against the GoI has been simmering since the month of September when the parliament of India passed three farm laws. From last many days, thousands of farmers from Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh have been marching toward the New Delhi and are nearing the borders.

After failing to garner support from their respective state governments, the farmers have decided to mount pressure on the GoI, due to which they are coming to Delhi.

In UP and Haryana, BJP led governments have failed to convince farmers, however, governments of Rajasthan and Punjab have extended full support to their agitation.

Farmers want GoI to either withdraw the three legislations or guarantee them the minimum support price (MSP) for their crops by introducing a new law.

Gurnam Singh Chaduni is leading the protestors from Haryana. Gurnam had contested the 2019 Assembly elections from Ladwa constituency in Kurukshetra district but got only 1,307 votes. However, he was quite active in raising farmers’ issues and led several protests across the state.

Apart from Gurnam, several national and regional farm unions, comprising many leaders, have joined hands under the umbrella banner of Samyukt Kisan Morcha.

As farmers do not accept the three new legislations — The Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation); The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance; and Farm Services and The Essential Commodities (Amendment), they believe the laws will open agricultural sale and marketing outside the notified Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC) mandis for farmers, remove the barriers to inter-state trade, and provide a framework for electronic trading of agricultural produce.

Since the state governments will not be able to collect market fee, cess or levy for trade outside the APMC markets, farmers believe the laws will gradually end the mandi system and leave farmers at the mercy of corporates.

They are also of the opinion that dismantling the mandi system will bring an end to the assured procurement of their crops at MSP. Similarly, farmers believe the price assurance legislation may offer protection to farmers against price exploitation, but will not prescribe the mechanism for price fixation.

Farmers are demanding the government guarantee MSP in writing, or else the free hand given to private corporate houses will lead to their exploitation.

 

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