Thousands of farmers have gathered at Delhi's two borders to protest against the new farm laws
The impasse over three farm laws between the government and the farmers’ unions continues as tens of thousands of farmers continue to stay put along Delhi borders for the fourteenth straight day on December 9.
Amit Shah intervenes
The sixth round of talks between the Centre, and union leaders scheduled to take place today has been cancelled after an ‘informal’ meeting of Union Home Minister Amit Shah with a section of farmer leaders on December 8 failed to break the deadlock.
This was Shah’s first meeting with the farmer leaders. In the earlier meetings, Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar, Minister of Railways Piyush Goyal and Minister of State for Commerce Somesh Prakash led the Centre’s talks with the farmers.
After the home minister’s intervention, the Centre will now present a draft proposal of key amendments in the contentious laws to the farmers before proceeding for another round of talks.
“We will hold a meeting over the draft that will be sent by the Centre. That meeting (6th round of talks with the government) is cancelled. Draft will be discussed and further course of action will be decided. We hope things will be clear by 4-5 pm today,” Rakesh Tikait, spokesperson of the Bharatiya Kisan Union, who was part of the meeting, told news agency ANI on December 9.
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Nothing short of repeal of three laws, demand farmers
In the meeting, held on a day when a nationwide Bharat Bandh was organised against the three laws, the farmer leaders reiterated their demand for a complete rollback of the laws.
"Amit Shah told us that the government will give in writing amendments it is willing to make. We want repeal of laws, there is no middle path,” said Hannan Mollah, general secretary of All India Kisan Sabha. However, there are reports that a certain section of farmer leaders are ready to give up their maximalist positions and agree on a middle ground.
There was, however, no official word from the government on what transpired in the meeting held at Pusa Complex in New Delhi.
The Centre has maintained that the three laws will not be repealed. It is expected to propose amendments related to a fee structure in notified agricultural produce market committees (APMCs), stricter provisions to safeguard farmers’ land rights, strengthening of notified markets apart from a guarantee on minimum support prices (MSPs) in the draft.
In earlier meetings too, the farmers have rejected amendment proposals
The Centre has projected these three laws - the Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020, the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020, and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020 – as the long-due reforms in the agriculture sector by the Narendra Modi government, but has failed to convince farmers in several rounds of talks held so far.
READ : Farmers' protests | What are the contentious clauses in farm laws
The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has however accused the opposition of misleading the famers. Union Minister for Information and Broadcasting, Prakash Javadekar on December 08, called the opposition who is asking to roll back three farm laws, 'hypocrite'.
"The opposition who is asking to roll back these laws is hypocritical as they had passed the contract farming act while in power. Congress has mentioned the introduction of these laws in their manifesto," Javadekar said.
Meanwhile, a five-member delegation of opposition leaders is expected to meet President Ram Nath Kovind at 5 pm today and seek his intervention on the issue. Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, NCP chief and former Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar, CPI(M) leader Sitaram Yechury, CPI’s D Raja and TKS Elangovan of the DMK will be part of the delegation.
READ : Farmer Protests: Here’s why Punjab and Haryana farmers are on the warpath
Farmers, mostly from Punjab and Haryana, have been protesting against the three farm laws since September when the government amended them. Before moving to Delhi borders in the ‘Delhi Chalo’ on November 26, the farmers blocked the railway tracks in Punjab for about two months pressing for their demands.