How the talks have frozen: the center says we have given in, farmers insist that lifting has always been the main demand

Written by Harikishan Sharma, Manraj Grewal Sharma | New Delhi |

Updated: December 15, 2020 2:56:47 PM





Farmers union leaders will meet for the fifth round of talks with the government in New Delhi at Vigyan Bhavan on December 5, 2020. (Express photo: Amit Mehra)

On October 13, the first item in the memorandum issued by protesting farmers was to call for the three central farm laws Adopted in a controversial meeting of the Rajya Sabha on September 20th.

Today, December 9th, after six rounds of talks with more than 20 hours of deliberations and protests on the streets of Punjab, Haryana and the capital, the peasant leaders had returned underline the same element.

This lack of exercise has exacerbated the gap and is the most challenging as both sides work on their next steps.

Government officials claimed they had “given in” and given “assurances” based on exactly what the farmers asked for during the Vigyan Bhavan talks.

“They asked for assurances regarding MSP and tax parity, as well as the legal process. If repeal was the only demand, what was there to discuss in six rounds? “Said a senior government official. “We have given the assurances the farmers have asked for.”

Not quite, say the farmers.

In fact, they emphasize that the override request was consistent along with the hardwire MSP into the law and it’s the government that was ambiguous.📣 Follow Express Explained on Telegram

In the first round of talks with the center, held on October 14 in Krishi Bhawan between 29 representatives of the Punjab farm unions and the Union’s Minister of Agriculture, Sanjay Agarwal, farmers made a number of demands.

These included the repeal of the agricultural laws and the 2020 Electricity Amendment Act; legal safeguarding of public procurement at the minimum support price; Withdrawal of the Electricity Act (Amendment), 2020; Withdrawal of cases recorded against activists and protesters; and implementation of the report of the Swaminathan commission on the correction of MSP with C2 + 50 percent formulas.

Jamhuri Kisan Sabha General Secretary Kulwant Singh Sandhu said: “In the first round of talks we gave the secretary a letter with our eight demands. These demands included the repeal of three agricultural laws. “He said this was never taken off the table.

Even a memorandum signed by a dozen or so farm union representatives and submitted to Agarwal on October 14th mentions this as one of their demands.

After the fifth round of talks with the center on December 5, the farmers reiterated their request for repeal. Even as the Union’s Minister of Agriculture Narendra Singh Tomar announced that the government was ready to reconsider some of the provisions of the agricultural laws Samyata (a level playing field) between the APMC mandis and the private markets, farmers have tightened their stance.

“We had mobilized people about repeal. We have decided not to return until three laws have been repealed and two bills withdrawn, ”Sandhu told The Indian Express.

Earlier, when protests broke out in the Malwa region of Punjab on July 27, up to 11 unions had traveled with tractors from their respective villages and presented their MPs with memoranda against the regulations of the time.

The protests were well received when on August 19 all 31 Punjab farmers unions, including the Khet Mazdoor (farm workers) unions, decided to work in a coordinated manner.

Their memoranda to the Prime Minister and the Punjab government also largely focused on the repeal of the ordinances and guarantee for MSPs.

Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar speaks to the media outside of Vigyan Bhawan in New Delhi on December 5, 2020. (Express photo: Amit Mehra)

The protests intensified after the three laws were passed. On September 23, all 31 peasant unions announced the “Rail Roko” agitation from October 1, along with dharnas outside shopping malls, company fuel pumps, and even outside the homes of BJP leaders.

This was again accompanied by a growing demand for the three laws to be repealed. It was also agreed that farmers would be appeased if the government guaranteed the continuation of MSPs – through the law – and APMCs, barring changes to regulate private actors.

However, as soon as the farmers reached Delhi. the maximalist demand for repeal hardened. “The government heard what it wanted to hear,” said a peasant leader. “We always wanted these laws to be repealed.”

Some government officials attributed the hardening of farmers’ positions to the presence of leftist leaders on the negotiating team. “You have strong ideological opposition to the government,” said one official. “They will never give in, there are more than 35 representatives and left leaders dominate the discourse.”

The government hopes it can peel off some of these groups from the 35, but given the united front they have advocated in denying government pledges and demanding repeal, this could be challenging.

It is clear that the fault lines are drawn.

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