As protest enters 41st day, farmers' leaders meet to discuss future strategy
New Delhi, January 5, 2021
The farmers' agitation on the borders of the national capital, demanding the repeal of the three Central farm laws passed by Parliament in September last year, continued for the 41st day on Tuesday.
After the ministerial level talks between the farmers leaders and the Central government on Monday failed to reach a consensus, the future strategy of the farmers would be decided at a meeting of the Samyukta Kisan Morcha which is currently underway here.
Harinder Singh Lakhowal, Punjab farmer leader and General Secretary of the Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU), told IANS that the Central government was deliberately trying to stretch the talks with the farmers' leaders. The next round of talks has been fixed for January 8.
The farmer leaders have already announced that they will take out a "Tractor March" on January 6 if the talks on the farm laws remained inconclusive on January 4.
Harinder Singh said that before the Samyukta Kisan Morcha meeting at 2 p.m. on Tuesday, a meeting of the Punjab farmers organisations is being held. He informed that in this meeting the strategy to intensify the protest is being discussed.
Lakhowal said the government's attitude at Monday's talks was to prolong the talks. The meeting was scheduled to start at 2 p.m. but the minister did not reach on time which led to a delay of nearly 40 minutes, he added. The government pressed for removing the loopholes and amending the three new farm laws, while the farmers' representatives demanded the repeal of the laws. Before a consensus could be reached, it was time for lunch.
Lakhowal said that when the meeting resumed after the lunch break, it was proposed to discuss the Minimum Support Price (MSP) issue but the farmers' leaders said that talks should first be held about the process of withdrawing the three farm laws.
Then there was a discussion on contract farming and the ministers started talking about its benefits. But the farmers demanded the withdrawal of the three laws, to which the ministers said they would discuss and analyse the issue with more people, asking for more time from the farmers.
Lakhowal said, "We accepted the demand by the Centre for more time, but said the talks on the withdrawal of the farm laws should be held in the next meeting with the Centre."
The BKU general secretary said that a press conference would be held on Tuesday evening regarding the decisions taken in the farmers' meeting currently underway. Lakhowal added that the agitation will continue till the government accepted the two core demands of the farmers.
Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar was accompanied by Railway Minister Piyush Goyal and Minister of State for Commerce and Industry, Som Prakash, during yesterday's talks.
After the meeting, Tomar said the talks ended on a positive note and, with the consent of the farmers representatives, the next date of talks has been fixed for January 8. He added that the farmers' leaders remained firm on their demand for the repeal of the farm laws and so no solution emerged from the talks.
The farmers, who are camping at Delhi's borders since November 26, 2020, are demanding the withdrawal of The Farmers Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act 2020; Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Act 2020; and Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020 as well as a guarantee on procurement of crops at the minimum support price (MSP).