Farmers' protest | Agriculture Ministry postpones next round talks to Wednesday

Farmers at Singhu Border, in New Delhi. File   | Photo Credit: Sushil Kumar Verma

The Agriculture Ministry has postponed the next round of talks between Central Ministers and protesting farm unions, which was supposed to be held on Tuesday, to Wednesday. The delay is due to "unavoidable reasons", it said in a late night communication to the unions.

The letter was sent soon after Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar returned to Delhi from a visit to his constituency in Madhya Pradesh. Earlier, speaking to reporters in Gwalior, he blamed the protesting unions for the continuing stalemate. “The unions are not willing to discuss the specific provisions of the laws, so the deadlock persists. Tomorrow, there is a meeting again. I am hopeful that the unions will discuss alternatives [other than the repeal of the laws] so that we can reach a solution,” he said.

Mr. Tomar also urged the unions to give up their plans for a tractor rally in Delhi on Republic Day. “I want to appeal to farmers that January 26 is our Republic Day, and our country has got independence after many sacrifices. It is the responsibility of the farmers also to ensure that the dignity of Republic Day is not affected. I hope they will reconsider their decision,” he said.

Farmers groups welcomed the Supreme Court’s comments during Monday’s hearing on their Republic Day plans, and reiterated their plans to go ahead with their tractor rally. On Monday, the unions held preliminary discussions with the Delhi Police regarding their plans.

“The Court has not said we must not enter Delhi. They are not going to stop us. It has told the government it is your job to deal with the situation and you do it. Now let us see what the government does,” said All India Kisan Sabha general secretary Hannan Mollah.

He said that Surendra Singh Yadav, Joint Commissioner, Delhi Police had visited the Singhu border protest site with a team of seven-eight senior police officials for initial discussions with the Samyukt Kisan Morcha leadership present there.

“We have informed our plans for January 26, including our route on Outer Ring Road. They spoke of difficulties from their side. We discussed how to conduct it [the rally] peacefully without any untoward incident. We told them even a single incident will be more harmful to us, and we will take every step to ensure that there is no problem,” Mr. Mollah told The Hindu after the discussions. “We will need at least two-three more meetings to discuss with the police,” he added.

Also read: SC committee to meet farmers’ groups from Jan. 21

This comes on the eve of the first meeting of the committee appointed by the Supreme Court to resolve the crisis.

“The three of us will hold our first meeting tomorrow (Tuesday) afternoon, probably at the Pusa campus [of the National Agricultural Science Complex]. We will hold the first meeting with farmers’ groups on January 21,” said Shetkari Sanghatan president Anil Ghanwat, one of the three remaining members of the committee..

The unions protesting on the borders of Delhi for almost two months have refused to meet with the committee, but Mr. Ghanwat who heads a pro-reforms union, is unfazed. "There are hundreds and thousands of farmers and farmers’ groups who are in favour of the laws and who are willing to meet with us. We will listen to them first,” he said. “We will keep on urging all farmers’ groups to talk to us as the Supreme Court has directed it. We are here to listen to everyone,” he added. The SC committee will also meet with millers, food processors and other representatives of the agribusiness and food industry, but there is currently no plan to meet with government representatives, he said.

The farm unions observed Mahila Kisan Divas at all their border protest sites on Sunday, with women taking over the stage and declaring their intention to stay put until the three laws are repealed.

The movement also faced some internal churn, with the joint front of the Samyukt Kisan Morcha disassociating itself from the political outreach of one of its key members, Haryana leader Gurnam Singh Chaduni.

Mr. Chaduni had written letters to political parties in relation to the ongoing protest against the three farm reform laws on Delhi’s borders, and met with some politicians at Delhi’s Constitution Club on Sunday. After a public disassociation by the SKM, Mr. Chaduni promised to stay away from further political meetings for the duration of the agitation.

“This movement was brought to this stage by farmer organisations and alliances with the active participation of farmers and others, and it is they who will take it to its end-objectives. Any organisation and party is free to extend its support; however, the Samyukt Kisan Morcha and the movement will not have any direct engagement with any political party,” said the joint front, in a statement.

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Printable version | Mar 2, 2021 2:09:55 AM |

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