Meanwhile, a delegation of Opposition parties including Rahul Gandhi, Sharad Pawar, and Left leaders on Wednesday met President Ram Nath Kovind seeking repeal of the three farm law
The farmers’ groups rejected a government proposal promising a written assurance on Minimum Support Price (MSP) and amending certain portions of two of the three contentious farm laws, saying there’s “nothing new” in them, reports said.
The farmers also announced plans to intensify the agitation against the three Acts with a nationwide protest on 14 December.
They also said they will block the Jaipur-Delhi and the Delhi-Agra expressways on or before 12 December, and all the roads entering into the National Capital, one-by-one, if their demands to repeal the three acts, are not met, PTI reported.
Farmer leader Shiv Kumar Kakka told a press conference at the Singhu border entry point that there was nothing new in the government’s proposal sent to them on Wednesday, and that it was “completely rejected” by the ‘Sanyukta Kisan Committee’.
However, farmer leader Jangvir Singh said that their unions may consider if the government sends another proposal.
Kakka said the farmers have decided to intensify their agitation, and that they will block all roads leading to Delhi one by one if the three farm laws are not scrapped.
Another farmer leader, Darshan Pal, said the proposals sent by Union Home Minister Amit Shah contained the same things as Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar told farmer leaders in previous meetings.
All the highways to Delhi will be blocked on 14 December as part of the nationwide protest, he added.
News agency ANI said that farmers will also hold the nationwide sit-in protest outside BJP Offices on 14 December against the three farm laws.
On 14th December, BJP offices will be gheraoed, protest demonstrations will be held in many parts of the country. We are also giving a call to farmers from other parts of the country to reach Delhi: Farmer leaders at Singhu border
— ANI (@ANI) December 9, 2020
Meanwhile, the ongoing protest at the several border entry points to the National Capital, will also continue, reports added.
The three farm laws enacted in September have been projected by the Central Government and BJP-ruled states as major reforms in the agriculture sector that will remove the middlemen and allow farmers to sell anywhere in the country.
However, the protesting farmers have expressed apprehension that the new laws would pave the way for eliminating the safety cushion of MSP and do away with the APMC mandis, leaving them at the mercy of big corporates.
The govt has also brought changes into the Essential Commodity Act, liberalising the limits of stockpiling essential commodities like pulses, potatoes, onions, etc.
Famers from Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, and Rajasthan had begun travelling towards Delhi as part of the Delhi Chalo protests on 25 November. But along the way, they were met with resistance, especially in Haryana where the police used water cannons against farmers at several points and also lathi-charged them.
After facing criticism, the Haryana government allowed farmers to travel towards Delhi, but soon after they arrived at Delhi’s border entry points on 26 November, they were prevented from entering the National Capital unless they moved to govt-designated grounds.
Some farmers moved to these grounds, while others have remained camped at the border entry points. The protests entered the 14th day on Wednesday.
Govt proposal included seven amendments in two of three laws
Earlier today, the Union Agriculture Ministry had sent a draft proposal to 13 farm union leaders including Joginder Singh Urgrahan of BKU (Ekta Ugrahan), one of the biggest among nearly 40 agitating unions.
In the proposal, the government said that it is ready to provide all necessary clarifications on their concerns about the new farm laws enacted in September, but the proposal didn’t mention anything about the farmers’ main demand, which is the repeal of the three new farm laws.
The ministry had also said that it’s ready to give a written assurance to farmers on minimum support price.
In the proposal, sent by Agriculture Ministry Joint Secretary Vivek Aggarwal, the government had proposed seven amendments in the two new laws — The Farmers Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020 and The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020.
However, it has not touched The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020 at all.
The proposal had come after a meeting between 13 union leaders and Union Home Minister Amit Shah failed on Tuesday. The government had then said it would send a draft proposal on key issues raised by the farmers regarding the three farm laws. The sixth round of talks between the government and farm union leaders, which was scheduled for Wednesday morning, was also cancelled.
In order to ease farmers’ fears that APMC mandis would weaken after the new laws, the government said on Wednesday that an amendment can be made wherein state governments can register the traders operating outside mandis.
States can also impose tax and cess as they used in APMC (Agricultural Produce Market Committee) mandis on them.
On concerns that farmers may be duped as anyone having just a PAN card is allowed to trade outside APMC mandis, the government said to rule out such apprehensions, the state governments can be given the power to register such traders and make rules keeping in mind the local situation of farmers.
On the issue of farmers not getting the right to appeal in civil courts for dispute resolution, the government said it is open to making an amendment to provide for an appeal in civil courts.
Currently, the dispute resolution is at the SDM level. On fears that big corporates will take over farmlands, the government said it has already been made clear in the laws, but still, for clarity’s sake, it can be written that no buyer can take loans against farmland nor any such condition will be made to farmers.
On attaching farmland under contract farming, the government said the existing provision is clear but still it can be clarified further if required.
On fear about the scrapping of the MSP regime and shifting of trade to private players, the government said it is ready to give a written assurance that the existing MSP will continue.
On demands to scrap the proposed Electricity Amendment Bill, 2020, the government said there won’t be any change in the existing system of electricity bill payment for farmers.
On farmers’ demand to scrap the Air Quality Management of NCR Ordinance 2020, under which there is the provision of penalty for stubble burning, the government said it is ready to find an appropriate solution.
Negotiations work in progress, says Javadekar
Earlier Wednesday, several ministers in the Narendra Modi govt had attended a cabinet meet. Speaking to reporters after the meet, Union Minister Prakash Javadekar had expressed hope that ongoing deliberations with them, which he termed a “work in progress”, will yield some results soon.
He said the government has held several rounds of talks with the farmers agitating against the three legislations and is keen to resolve their issues.
“When the talks and negotiations are taking place, it is considered a work in progress. There is no running commentary on any such work in progress,” he told reporters at a Cabinet briefing in Delhi.
“The government has discussed the concerns raised by farmers during six rounds of talks. The government is sensitive to their concerns and wants to resolve the issues raised by the farmers. This is a work in progress, (and) hopefully (it is) in the last stage,” he said.
He was asked about the proposal sent by the government to farmers after several rounds of talks.
The farmers have rejected the draft in which the government proposed to give them a “written assurance” that the existing Minimum Support Price (MSP) regime for crop procurement will continue.
Opposition leaders meet President, seek repeal of three farm laws
Meanwhile, a delegation of Opposition parties including Rahul Gandhi, Sharad Pawar, and Left leaders on Wednesday met President Ram Nath Kovind seeking repeal of the three farm laws.
The five-member delegation of opposition leaders included CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury, CPI general secretary D Raja and DMK leader TKS Elangovan, besides Gandhi and Pawar.
“We met the President and informed him of our view regarding the three farm laws. We have asked for their repeal. We informed the President that it is critical that they are taken back,” Gandhi told reporters after meeting the President.
He said the way the farm laws were passed in Parliament, “we feel it was an insult to farmers and that is why they are protesting in the cold weather against them”.
The former Congress chief also said the new laws appeared aimed at handing over the farming sector to the “friends of the prime minister”, but the farmers are fearless and would not back off and will continue with their peaceful agitation.
NCP leader Pawar said various political parties have requested President that these farm laws should be repealed as they were not discussed with either stakeholders or in the Select Committee of Parliament.
Yechury said, “We told President that the three farm laws were passed undemocratically in the Parliament and have sought the repeal of these laws.”
The opposition delegation was limited to five because of the COVID-19 situation.
With inputs from PTI
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