On Eve of Talks, Farmers Demand Special Parliament Session to Repeal Agri Laws; Amarinder-Shah Meet Likely

The leaders of protesting farmers wrote to Union agriculture minister Narendra Singh Tomar on Wednesday, demanding a special session of Parliament to repeal the new farm laws and asking the government to not “indulge in divisive agenda” to break farmers’ unity. The letter came a day before the second round of talks between the Centre and leaders of farmer unions to resolve the ongoing standoff over the new agriculture laws.

“We ask the government not to indulge in any divisive agendas with regard to the farmers’ movement which is united in its demands at this point of time. This was clear from the meeting proceedings yesterday (Tuesday),” Samyukt Kisan Morcha Coordination Committee, which is spearheading the protests, said in the letter.

According to the letter, the leaders asked the Centre to ensure that representatives of various farmer organisations and their alliances are decided by the farmers and not by the government, and that the all-India alliances that have been at the forefront of the agitation get representation in the consultations.

Critical talks between three Union ministers and farmer groups ended in a stalemate on Tuesday after they rejected the government’s suggestion of a new committee to look into the issues raised by the agitating farmers. The two sides, however, have decided to meet again on Thursday.

In its letter, the Samyukt Kisan Morcha Coordination Committee asked the government to ensure that all consultations happen at the same time without any parallel talks with different organisations at different times and locations. “We once again put forward our demand that Parliament be convened immediately to repeal the three farm acts, and give in writing that the government would not introduce the Electricity Amendment Bill 2020 in the Parliament,” it stated.

It also stated that thousands of farmers including mothers, children and the elderly have been sitting peacefully and patiently on the national highways leading into Delhi for the past seven days, braving the chill with determination. Three deaths have already been reported, it said, adding that it would be inhuman on the part of the Union government to not resolve the farmers’ genuine and legitimate demands immediately and bring normalcy at the earliest.

“The Expert Panel proposal is not acceptable to us. Given the failure of earlier such efforts, we see no point in this. The lack of sincerity of the government makes it use this tool of expert panels that it sets up, with government itself inevitably deciding the constitution and terms of reference, and also not adopting, inevitably again, the recommendations that come out of such panels. Therefore, farmers can see through the ploy of meaningless expert panels,” it added.

Earlier in the day, leaders of farmer unions threatened to block other roads of the national capital if their demands were not met soon. They also warned that “more steps” will be taken by them in the coming days if the central government does not withdraw the new agriculture laws.

The government held its own huddle ahead of Thursday’s talks. Union home minister Amit Shah met agriculture minister Narendra Singh Tomar and railway minister Piyush Goyal on the issues raised by farmers. Tomar and Goyal along with MoS for Commerce Som Parkash had represented the Union government in Tuesday’s inconclusive talks with farmer leaders.

Sources told News18 that Shah is also likely to meet Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh at 9:30am on Thursday to discuss the farmers’ agitations among other issues.

Thousands of farmers from Punjab, Haryana and several other states have been protesting for seven consecutive days at the borders of the national capital against three farm laws. The farmers have expressed apprehension that the Centre’s farm laws would pave the way for the dismantling of the minimum support price system, leaving them at the “mercy” of big corporates.

The government has maintained that the new laws will provide farmers with better opportunities. It has also accused the opposition parties of misleading farmers.

Rajasthan Farmers Too Gear Up

Rajasthan farmers belonging to Alwar district bordering Haryana too have started mobilising support for their counterparts in protest against the Centre’s three agricultural laws. Farmers will be holding a mahapanchayat’ (grand meeting) in Alwar to decide on the next strategy, Rashtriya Kisan Mahapanchayat president Rampal Jat said on Wednesday.

Talking to reporters on Haryana border in Alwar, Jat urged the Centre to make a law guaranteeing the continuation of the minimum support price mechanism. “These bills have been passed to woo foreign investors. Big players will get a monopoly in the trade. They will pay the least to farmers for their produce and charge heavily from consumers. They will loot both producers and consumers,” claimed Jat.

Transporters Threaten to Halt Operations in Support

Coming forward in support of agitating farmers, transporters’ apex body AIMTC has threatened to halt operations in northern India from December 8 if the government fails to address concerns of the farming community. The All India Motor Transport Congress (AIMTC) is the apex body of transporters, representing about 95 lakh truckers and other entities.

“AIMTC has already extended its support to the farmer agitation from day one. We have decided on stopping our operations strategically starting from North India and if the government does not address the issue of the farmers then we may decide to go for shutting down of transport operations nationwide in their support,” AIMTC President Kultaran Singh Atwal said.

Ready for Long Haul

Away from the comfort of their homes and undeterred by the winter chill, farmers camping at Delhi’s Singhu border laws say they are prepared for a long haul and will not leave until their demands are met. The farmers, who have come from the neighbouring states of Punjab and Haryana, start their day with a bath at petrol pumps, where they also wash their clothes. They return the favour by cleaning the petrol pumps.

They cook on the roadside. Anyone visiting the protest site is also offered a wholesome meal which includes dal, rice, paranthas and kheer on different days. A continuous supply of tea helps the protesters brave the cold weather conditions. Before they retire for the day, they gather in groups, singing songs and playing drums to keep their spirits high.

Among the five border points blocked are Singhu, the main access point for those entering Delhi from Punjab, Tikri, Ghazipur and Chilla. The protest at the Delhi-Uttar Pradesh border in Ghazipur intensified, leading to the closure of a key route connecting the national capital with Uttar Pradesh.

At the Chilla Border, which connects Delhi with Noida, more farmers from Firozabad, Meerut, Noida and Etawah started gathering, prompting the authorities to close the key road stretch for the second consecutive day.

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