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Centre invites farmers for talks on December 30; PM extends olive branch to protesters

The unions insisted that the agenda of the meeting should include discussing modalities for repealing the three legislations enacted in September that have remained the main demand.

Published: 29th December 2020 08:24 AM  |   Last Updated: 29th December 2020 08:57 AM   |  A+A-

Farmers raise slogans during their protest against the Centers new farm laws at Ghazipur border in New Delhi. (Photo | Parveen Negi/EPS)

By PTI

NEW DELHI: The Centre on Monday invited 40 protesting farmer unions for the next round of talks on December 30 on all relevant issues to find a "logical solution" with "open mind" to the prolonged impasse over the three new agri laws.

The invite for the resumption of the stalled talks came following a proposal made by the unions on Saturday to hold the sixth round on December 29 even as Prime Minister Narendra Modi asserted his government will continue to work to strengthen farmers and agri sector with "full dedication."

The unions have agreed "in-principle" to join the talks but insisted the agenda of the meeting should include discussing modalities for repealing the three legislations enacted in September that have remained the main demand.

As the number of farmers agitating at the protest epicentre Singhu border point in Delhi since November 28 swelled with new protesters joining the stir, Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar said a "wall of lies" has been spread in a "planned manner" among farmers against the agri laws, but it will not last long and the protesters will soon realise the truth.

Tomar also said he is hopeful of an early solution to the impasse.

In a letter to the farmer unions, Agriculture Secretary Sanjay Aggarwal invited them for the talks at 2 pm on Wednesday at Vigyan Bhavan in the national capital.

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The last formal meeting took place on December 5, in which union leaders had demanded a clear 'yes or no' answer from the government for the repeal of the three farm laws.

Taking note of the unions' offer to resume talks, Aggarwal said, "The government is also committed to finding a logical solution on all relevant issues with a clear intention and an open mind."

With regard to the proposed agenda by the unions for the meeting, the Secretary said a detailed discussion will take place on the three farm laws, Minimum Support Price(MSP) procurement system as well as Electricity Amendment bill and ordinance to tackle air pollution in and around Delhi/National Capital Region(NCR).

Abhimanyu Kohar, a member of the Samyukt Kisan Morcha -- an umbrella body of 40 unions protesting against the contentious legislations -- said the farmers have agreed to go for the meeting on the date proposed by the Centre.

"In our letter sent to the government on December 26, we had clearly mentioned that repeal of three farm laws and legal guarantee for MSP should be part of the agenda for fresh talks, but despite this, the government in letter today has not mentioned any specific agenda," Kohar told PTI.

"But, we have agreed in-principle to hold talks with the government."

The All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee (AIKSCC) in a statement said the protesting farmers want the meeting to include four specific agendas including "modalities to be adopted for the repeal of the three Central farm Acts".

However, the government has used "vague and unspecific language", indicating its willingness to discuss the full agenda items proposed by farmers, it alleged.

In his address via video conferencing after he flagged off the 100th run of the Kisan Rail service across the country between Sangola in Maharashtra and Shalimar in West Bengal, Prime Minister Modi said his government has undertaken historic reforms in the farm sector to boost agriculture and strengthen farmers.

Modi said his government's policies are clear and intentions transparent in reforming the agriculture sector.

"We will keep on marching on the path of strengthening Indian agriculture and Kisan with full dedication," he said.

Modi did not directly refer to the new farm laws, but he has often asserted they are in the interests of farmers and accused opposition parties of misleading them.

The 'Kisan Rail', a service started by his government, will help small and marginal farmers, who account for over 80 per cent of the peasantry, in supplying their produce to far-off markets, the prime minister said, adding that a big demand for its services led to a rise in its frequency.

This will also help boost the income of farmers, he said.

This is also a testimony to the fact that how keen the farmers are for new possibilities, the prime minister said.

The government has been working to boost supply chain, cold storage facilities and bringing about value addition to farmers' produce to help them, he added.

ALSO READ | Centre should take farmers' agitation very seriously: Sharad Pawar

So far, five rounds of formal talks have remained inconclusive.

The last round of was held on December 5, while the sixth round originally scheduled for December 9 was called off after an informal meeting of Home Minister Amit Shah with some union leaders failed to yield a breakthrough.

The government had, however, followed up Shah's meeting with a draft proposal sent to the unions in which it had suggested 7-8 amendments to the new laws and written assurance on the MSP procurement system.

The date given by the government for the next round of talks also coincides with the day when the unions have also decided to hold a tractor march from Singhu Border and Tikri Border to the Kundli-Manesar-Palwal (KMP).

Thousands of farmers, especially from Punjab, Haryana and parts of Uttar Pradesh, camping at Delhi border points have threatened to intensify their stir in the coming days if their demands are not fulfilled.

The government has presented the new laws as major agriculture reforms aimed at helping farmers and increasing their income, but the protesting unions fear these Acts have left them at the mercy of big corporates by weakening MSP and mandi systems.

Agriculture Minister Tomar said he he remains hopeful to find an early solution to end the impasse.

"Some way out will emerge and we will reach towards the solution. Everyone knows that the wall of lies is never strong. Truth is truth. There is going to be a time when people will start accepting the truth," Tomar said addressing a virtual event organised by Confederation of NGOs of Rural India (CNRI).

At another event, Tomar said former prime minister Manmohan Singh and the then agriculture minister Sharad Pawar wanted to bring farm reforms during the UPA regime, but could not implement them due to "political pressure".

Tomar also asserted the Modi government will not take any decisions detrimental to the poor and farmers.

The minister was addressing representatives of 11 farmer organisations from Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Haryana, Maharashtra, Jammu and Kashmir who had come to extend support for the three farm laws.

Pawar, the NCP supremo, meanwhile said the Centre should take the farmers' agitation "very seriously" and there should be a dialogue between the two sides.

Pawar said farmers are protesting on road in shivering cold and it is a matter of concern.

He was talking to reporters in Delhi after meeting CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury.

Niti Aayog Vice Chairman Rajiv Kumar lamented that false narratives about the new farm laws are doing significant harm to the interest of farmers as well as the economy in general.

He also emphasised that continued negotiations with protesting farmers is of course the way forward.

"Any argument that these measures (the Centre's new farm laws) will open the farmers for exploitation by large corporates is completely false because the government has assured MSP to all the farmers on a range of crops," he told PTI in an interview.



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