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Dilli Chalo | Farmers reject agri law amendment proposals, plan to intensify stir

Farmers listen to a speaker during a protest against the newly passed farm bills at Singhu border near New Delhi on December 9, 2020.   | Photo Credit: Reuters

Farmer leaders on Wednesday rejected the Union government’s proposal to amend three contentious agricultural marketing laws and vowed to intensify their agitation until the laws are repealed. They plan to block the capital’s highways toward Agra and Jaipur by December 12 and hold a nationwide dharna two days later.

The Centre delivered its written proposal to the farmer leadership at the Singhu border point on Tuesday afternoon, two weeks after tens of thousands of farmers began their protest, camping on Delhi’s borders with Haryana and Uttar Pradesh.

 

The proposal offered a written assurance that government procurement at minimum support price (MSP) will remain, along with proposals to amend the laws to deal with the concerns raised by farmers regarding parity between state-run and private mandis, registration of traders, and dispute resolution mechanisms.

“There is nothing different in this from what has been said during the discussions, which we have repeatedly rejected. The government wants to dress up its old proposals in new clothes. It’s an insult to farmers,” said Krantikari Kisan Union president Darshan Pal.

Representatives of farmer organistaions arrive for a meeting on the Centre's farm reform laws, near Singhu border in New Delhi on December 9, 2020.

Representatives of farmer organistaions arrive for a meeting on the Centre's farm reform laws, near Singhu border in New Delhi on December 9, 2020.   | Photo Credit: PTI

He outlined plans to step up the pressure. “By December 12, we will jam the Delhi-Jaipur highway. On that day, we will make toll plazas across the country free for a day,” he said, adding that farmers were calling for a boycott of the Jio mobile connections and other products and services of the Reliance and Adani conglomerates. The farmers allege that the three laws will benefit large corporates at the expense of the small farmer.

BJP offices to be gheraoed

Other leaders said BJP offices would be gheraoed in every district, and that the Taj Expressway from Delhi to Agra would be blocked. On December 14, they plan a dharna, or sit-in, with farmers from North Indian States urged to come to Delhi, while others begin indefinite protests in their own home States.

 

Late night discussions between Home Minister Amit Shah and a select group of farmer leaders on Tuesday, at the end of a day-long Bharat bandh, failed to break the impasse. “We told him that the farmers have been completely reasonable, we have held five rounds of talks with the government. We are not prepared to talk anymore,” said Shiv Kumar Kakkaji Sharma, who heads the Rashtriya Kisan Mahasangh. “One by one, we will block all of Delhi’s roads. Until the three laws are repealed, our war will continue,” he added.

Minutes after the farmers announced their rejection of the Centre’s proposal, Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar was seen entering Mr. Shah’s residence for further consultations on the government’s way forward. The Centre says the new laws will increase farmers' income by giving them wider choices to sell their produce, and welcoming private investment in post-harvest infrastructure and marketing systems.

The Centre’s written proposal, sent by Agriculture Ministry joint secretary Vivek Aggarwal to 40 farmer leaders, identifies 10 different issues or concerns that the farmers have raised during the talks. With regard to the demand for full repeal, the document simply states that the Centre is keeping an open mind to consider all of the provisions against which objections are being raised by farmers.

MSP issue

With regard to MSP, the document says the Centre is prepared to give a “written assurance” that the current system of procurement of crops at MSP will continue.

Farmers have been demanding a legal guarantee, preferably in the form of a new law that specifically says crops cannot be bought below MSP rates.

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In several cases, the Centre proposes to enact amendments which put the onus on State governments. With regard to parity between mandis, it will enable the States to register private mandis and tax their transactions at the same rate as at state-run mandis. It will also let the States formulate rules regarding registration of private traders, allow them to demand more stringent identification requirements if they wish. With regard to dispute resolution, the Centre says it is willing to introduce a provision allowing recourse to civil courts, apart from the current system of arbitration by the SDM.

With regard to the contract farming law, the Centre proposes to mandate that a signed copy of the contract be submitted to the SDM within 30 days, until the States set up formal registration mechanisms. Other provisions will ensure that farmers’ land cannot be attached by the contracted buyer in any circumstances, while structures built on the land will also belong to the farmer and cannot be mortgaged by the buyer or sponsor.

 

“The core concerns about removing regulation on traders and companies outside the [state-run] mandis, which means removing all protections offered to farmers by the regulation system, remain completely unaddressed by these proposals,” said Kiran Kumar Vissa, a leader of Telengana farmer group Rythu Swarajya Vedika.

He noted that the proposed amendments to the contract farming law did not protect farmers from companies that do not register contracts, provide faulty inputs, or sue farmers. Farmers’ issues regarding the Essential Commodities Act have not been addressed at all, he stated.

“Despite the attempt by the government to portray itself as reasonable, it is being very rigid in not addressing the key demands; it’s simply playing a public relations game of trying to change perceptions,” said Mr. Vissa.

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Printable version | Mar 8, 2021 10:42:57 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/dilli-chalo-agitating-farmer-unions-get-draft-proposals-from-govt/article33288708.ece

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