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Farmers’ protest | Only oral assurances from government, say farmers

Farmers protest against agriculture laws on G.T. Karnal Road at the Singhu border in New Delhi on December 31, 2020.   | Photo Credit: SHIV KUMAR PUSHPAKAR

Despite reaching an agreement on exempting farmers from the penal provisions of stubble burning under an ordinance on air quality in the capital, the Centre does not plan to take action until all other issues with protesting farmers groups are also resolved. Asked about the timeline to amend the ordinance, Agriculture Ministry officials noted that only an “in-principle” agreement has been reached during Wednesday’s negotiations with protesting farmer leaders.

“Since the talks are still going on, once everything is finalised, then the timeline, etcetera, may come up for discussion. It was an in-principle decision that two of their demands were acceptable to the government,” a senior Agriculture Ministry official told The Hindu. “The modalities and timeline will be as per the final agreement. Once everything gets finalised, only then we will do it.”

Farmers’ protest | Young farmers break police barricades at Shahjahanpur

Minor issues

Farmer leaders said government action on the agreements already made would help to boost confidence for the talks ahead. However, they also emphasised that these are minor issues in comparison to the unresolved demands to repeal three contentious farm reform laws and provide a legal guarantee for MSP.

“There was only a verbal commitment from the government. No written agreement was given to us. But they can easily take action on the parali [stubble burning] issue, and direct the Pollution Board to make changes to exempt farmers. Let them do it,” said Yudhvir Singh, general secretary of the Bharatiya Kisan Union-Tikait, who was on the farmers delegation at the talks.

“What they committed, let them do,” said Hannan Mollah, general secretary of the All India Kisan Sabha, who was also a member of the farmers delegation. “But this is only a peripheral issue. Our major demand is on repeal of the three laws. So actually, there is only 1% advancement, 99% deadlock after yesterday’s talks. It is not 50% progress as the [Agriculture Minister] claimed.”

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The Samyukt Kisan Morcha, an umbrella front representing all protesting groups, said no concrete solutions had been reached on the main issues. “However, the assurance of withdrawal of two ordinances is a major victory as this decision protects the country’s federal structure and prevents privatisation,” it said in a statement on Thursday. Apart from the decriminalisation of stubble burning, an agreement was also reached on changes to protect power subsidies in a draft Electricity Bill.

Response on Sunday

The Morcha will hold an internal consultation on Saturday to discuss a response to the government’s request for “alternatives to repeal”, but most farm leaders insisted that there were no alternatives on the table. “We are all agreed that we want full repeal,” said Mr. Singh. They will send a written response to the Centre on Sunday, ahead of the next round of talks on Monday.

Earlier in the day, about 100 young farmers in 25 tractor trolleys broke through the police barricades at the Rajasthan-Haryana border at Shahjahanpur. The Haryana police opposed them using water cannons and tear gas, and halted them further down the Jaipur-Delhi highway at Rewari. All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee leaders say they appealed to the youth not to break the barricades, but also condemned the police action.

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Printable version | Feb 26, 2021 1:35:08 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/farmers-protest-only-oral-assurances-from-government-say-farmers/article33466404.ece

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