Farmers' Protest | National

Panel to pursue farmer demands with Centre

Farmers at Singhu border on December 4, 2021 pay homage to those who died during the stir.   | Photo Credit: SUSHIL KUMAR VERMA

Deciding to continue with the farmers’ agitation, the Samyukt Kisan Morcha (SKM), in a crucial meeting on Saturday, formed a five-member committee to discuss its remaining demands with the government. The committee will include Ashok Dhawale, Balbir Rajewal, Gurnam Charuni, Shivkumar Sharma ‘Kakkaji’ and Yudhvir Singh.

The SKM emphasised that these names are not for the MSP committee, as sought by the Central government. Instead, a release said the panel has been mandated to discuss the pending demands from the SKM’s six-point letter to the PM last week.

 

Demanding immediate withdrawal of cases lodged against farmers during the agitation, farmer leaders also expressed regret on Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Tomar’s statement in Parliament wherein he said there was no record of farmers’ deaths during the agitation.

Insisting that oral assurances won’t do, Mr Sharma said farmers would not return home until cases against them were withdrawn.

“We have had painful experiences of the past,” he said. Describing the Minister’s statement in Parliament as “reprehensible”, he reminded that the government had yet to respond to the SKM’s letter in writing.

 

“The government has data of each and every death. There are records in police stations, post mortems were conducted...the government is running away from its responsibility,” Mr Sharma said.

Rakesh Tikait, national spokesperson, Bhartiya Kisan Union, said, “The next meeting is scheduled for December 7, with the next two days kept for the government to respond to the SKM and work with the five-member committee to resolve the agitation to its logical conclusion.”

Describing the five-member committee as the “authorised body” to discuss pending issues all the pending issues with the government, Mr. Tikait said the committee would also decide who will talk with different State governments.

 

On the SKM agreeing to form a smaller committee, Mr Tikait said that earlier there was an apprehension that a smaller committee might come under pressure to agree to amendments in the farm laws. “Now that the bigger issue of farm laws has been resolved, we feel a smaller committee could take a call. However, the nine-member core committee of the SKM will also continue to work,” he said.

At the meeting held at the Singhu border, the umbrella body of the 40 farmer unions did a balancing act by including farmer leaders of different hues in the committee to ensure unity. Observers say, the SKM took note of the overtures by the government to reach out to individual leaders, while deciding the members.

Mr Rajewal and Mr Charuni represent farmer unions of Punjab and Haryana respectively and have indulged in the game of one-upmanship in the past. In fact, sources said, Mr Rajewal was approached by the BJP’s central leadership in the last few days. Mr Sharma is a farmer leader from Madhya Pradesh, whose presence runs counter to the government’s propaganda that the SKM is being controlled by farmer leaders from three States. Mr. Dhawale is the president of All India Kisan Sabha, the peasant’ front of Communist Party of India, and provides the ideological moorings to the SKM. Mr. Singh is the general secretary of Bhartiya Kisan Union that has influence in the poll-bound Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand.

 

The six pending demands of the farmers include legal entitlement for all farmers to realise remunerative MSP for any agricultural produce that they sell; withdrawal of Electricity Amendments Bill 2020/2021; deletion of section 15 in the law related to setting up of a Commission for Delhi Air Quality regulation, and three issues that have arisen as part of the ongoing struggle — withdrawal of cases foisted on protesting farmers and their supporters in various states.

In a joint statement, the SKM said, “Farm unions of India have a bitter experience from the past of securing only oral assurances and ending their agitation and finding that governments renege on the meagre oral assurances too. We will not end this agitation without formal responses on each of the issues being raised by us. We want to see all the cases foisted against farmers as well as their supporters as part of this movement to be withdrawn and such an assurance coming formally.”


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Printable version | Jan 23, 2022 3:35:51 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/farm-laws-skm-forms-committee-for-dialogue-with-government-on-pending-demands/article37838789.ece

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