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Farmers' protest | Centre, farmers to resume talks with low expectations

Farmers walk in front of their tents at the protest site in Delhi-Uttar Pradesh border on December 29, 2020.   | Photo Credit: AFP

As farmer leaders and Central Ministers sit down for the sixth round of talks at Vigyan Bhavan on Wednesday afternoon, neither side expects any immediate breakthrough.

Little has changed in terms of negotiating positions in the three weeks since talks broke down, according to farmer leaders, despite growing pressure on the ground. Farmers rallies were held in Bihar and Tamil Nadu on Tuesday, buttressing the claim that the agitation is not restricted to Punjab groups.

 

In their official response sent to the Agriculture Ministry on Tuesday afternoon, farmers groups reiterated that repeal of the three farm laws is the first point in their agenda for Wednesday's talks. Accepting the invitation for the 2 pm meeting, the Samyukt Kisan Morcha said, “We remind you that we are coming to this dialogue on the following agenda given in our previous letter and in the order given below..” It then listed “Modalities to be adopted to repeal” three contentious agricultural reform laws as the first agenda point.

“A ‘logical solution to the relevant issues’ would require that our dialogue run according to this agenda,” said the email, citing Agriculture Secretary Sanjay Agarwal’s invitation letter, which had said the Centre was committed to a logical solution

With tens of thousands of farmers now on their 34th straight day of protest on the borders of Delhi, the Centre has been urging the agitation’s leaders to return to the negotiation table through a series of letters this week. “It is a good thing that the talks will resume. That itself is progress. Let us see what further progress can be made now,” said a senior Agriculture Ministry official.

 

Krantikari Kisan Union president Darshan Pal, a senior leader among the Punjab groups which began the struggle and are now massed at the Singhu border point between Delhi and Haryana, says the Centre must recognise the changes which have taken place on the ground in the last three weeks since talks were last held.

“The protests have grown in number and spread well beyond Punjab and Haryana, so the government can no longer claim it is a one state issue,” he said, pointing to the five border points now entrenched with protestors, as well as the Patna and Thanjavur rallies. In the next two days, a tractor rally is expected to be held along the Kundli-Manesar Expressway. A boycott of Jio mobile services and prevention of toll collection in some states is also beginning to pinch.

“Farmers are resolved to stand fast, and I don’t think the government is still in a mood to budge, so I don’t expect any breakthrough [on Wednesday],” said Mr. Pal. He said the Centre is willing to offer concessions on the parali or stubble burning issue, agreeing to remove farmers from the penal provisions of the Commission for Air Quality. However, without any agreement on the repeal of the three laws, farmers are not willing to accept concessions on any other issue, he said.

 

“The overall strategy of the government seems to be, it still believes it can defeat us through propaganda attacks. Recently, it is the Prime Minister himself leading the charge,” said Swaraj India president Yogendra Yadav who is leading the protestors at Shahjahanpur on the Rajasthan-Haryana border on the road from Jaipur to Delhi. “The government engages in letter diplomacy to create a record on paper that it wants to negotiate, but it is defaming farmers everyday. How is that creating a conducive atmosphere?” he asked.

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Printable version | Feb 25, 2021 2:27:25 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/centre-farmers-to-resume-talks-on-december-30-with-low-expectations/article33446545.ece

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