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Punjab farmer leaders walk out of meeting with Agriculture Secretary

Punjab farmer leaders outside Krishi Bhavan after they walked out of a meeting with the Agriculture Secretary to discuss the controversial new farm laws.   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

A delegation of farmer leaders from Punjab walked out of talks with Agriculture Secretary Sanjay Agarwal on Wednesday, tearing up copies of the controversial farm market reform laws in front of Krishi Bhavan, which houses the Agriculture Ministry. They raised slogans slamming the BJP government and calling for the repeal of the laws.

 

The farmer leaders were angry that they were not granted a meeting with Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar, or a Group of Ministers (GoM) empowered to negotiate their demand to repeal the laws passed by Parliament last month.

 

The 29 farm unions driving the widespread protests and rail blockades across the State now plan to meet in Chandigarh on Thursday to discuss their future course of action and how to intensify and broaden the agitation. This is their second rejection this month of the Centre’s efforts to initiate dialogue to end the protests roiling the State.

 

“We asked the Secretary why we had been called for a meeting in Delhi while the BJP Ministers are busy in Punjab spreading false propaganda about the new laws and telling people that the farmer unions are being misled by other political outfits,” said Krantikari Kisan Union state president Darshan Pal, a member of the delegation.

“The Secretary gave us a speech about how the government is pro-farmer. We asked why the double standards that Union Minister of State for Agriculture Kailash Chaudhary is holding virtual meetings in Sangrur and Barnala districts today, but is not available to meet us. Mr. Tomar is also not available to meet. The Secretary is not the person who is empowered to discuss these laws,” he said.

 

After a one and a half hour meeting, the farmer leaders walked out of Krishi Bhavan, which houses the Agriculture Ministry, and proceeded to tear up the copies of the new laws and shout slogans before returning to Punjab. A meeting of 29 farm unions is planned in Chandigarh on Thursday to discuss future course of action and how to intensify and broaden the protests.

 

Information and Broadcasting Minister Prakash Javadekar downplayed the walkout when asked about it during a press interaction after a meeting of the Union Cabinet. “Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar have already held talks with many of the unions. If anyone else wants to meet, we are always open to meet everyone. Today, Mr. Tomar had a programme, so he went for that. But whenever free, he will certainly meet them. There is no problem about this,” he told journalists.

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The dialogue has failed as the Central government is not serious on the issues of farmers, said Jagjit Singh Dallewal, State president of the Bharatiya Kisan Union-Ekta, who was also part of the delegation. He said the Union Agriculture Minister should have talked to the farmers instead of the Secretary, adding that if Union Ministers are serious about the talks, then they should have talked to the representatives of all the farmers’ groups in Chandigarh itself. Instead, a delegation of Union Ministers is engaged in efforts to mislead the farmers in Punjab, he said.

 

The delegation also submitted a memorandum to the Secretary detailing their objections to the laws and laying out their demands for a legal guarantee for state procurement at the Minimum Support Prices and the implementation of the Swaminathan Committee recommendations, apart from repeal of the three laws.

 

“Agriculture is always on top priority for government of India...The government of India is always committed to protect the interest of the farmers and is always open for discussions,” said the Agriculture Ministry, in a brief statement after the breakdown of talks.

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Printable version | Apr 22, 2021 11:59:45 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/farmer-leaders-walk-out-of-meeting-with-agriculture-secretary/article32852651.ece

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