Farmer groups on Monday, rejecting the Centre’s latest letter asking them to select a date for the round of talks, said that a “concrete” solution is required.
This, as farmers protesting at Delhi’s border and in Uttar Pradesh, in a bid to intensify their agitation against the Centre’s new farm laws, began their relay hunger strikes.
Meanwhile, around 3,000 farmers from Maharashtra departed from Nashik for Delhi to join the 25-day protest. They will hold a vehicle rally under the banner of the All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS).
So far, the protests at Delhi’s Singhu, Tikri, Ghazipur borders have seen farmers from Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, and Rajasthan attend.
A 65-year-old farmer from Punjab’s Tarn Taran district, Niranjan Singh, attempted suicide by consuming poison at the Singhu border. PTI reported that Singh was admitted to the Rohtak’s PGIMS and his condition is stable.
3,000 farmers set out for Delhi from Nashik
Around 3,000 farmers left Nashik for Delhi as part of a vehicle march on Monday evening.
As per reports, the first group of farmers will stop for the night at Chandvad, which is 40 kilometres from Nashik.
On Tuesday, 7,000 more farmers will join the procession.
For those who think it’s only farmers from Punjab and Haryana, housands of farmers from Nasik getting ready to leave for Delhi to join the #FarmersProtest.
The vehicular march is set to reach the capital in 3-4 days. pic.twitter.com/rZ54Isxeak
— Parth MN (@parthpunter) December 21, 2020
‘Nothing new in Centre’s latest letter’
Farmer leaders said they are always ready for dialogue as long as the government is offering a “concrete solution”, but claimed that there is nothing new in the Centre’s latest letter to them seeking a date for the next round of talks.
Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) leader Rakesh Tikait said that the government in its letter mentioned that it wants to hold talks over its earlier proposal of amendments in the new agri laws.
“On this issue (government’s proposal), we did not talk to them earlier. We are currently discussing how to respond to the government letter,” Tikait told PTI. The sixth round of talks on 9 December was cancelled.
In the letter to 40 union leaders, the Union Agriculture Ministry joint secretary Vivek Aggarwal on Sunday asked them to specify their concerns over its earlier proposal of amendments in the laws and choose a convenient date for the next round of talks so that the ongoing agitation could end at the earliest.
“There is nothing new in their letter. We have already rejected the government’s proposal to amend the new farm laws. In its letter, the government has asked us to discuss its proposal and convey a date to it for another round of talks.
“Don’t they know our demand? We just want a complete repeal of the new agriculture laws,” another farmer leader Abhimanyu Kohar said.
In the letter, the Union agriculture joint secretary said the Centre is making all efforts with “an open heart” to find an appropriate solution to resolve all concerns raised by farmers.
The officer said that in its draft proposal sent on 9 December, the government had proposed to make necessary amendments on at least seven issues, including providing a “written assurance” to the farmers that the existing minimum support price (MSP) system would continue.
“It doesn’t make sense that the government is asking us for a date. We are basically sitting here all day long waiting for the government to hear us. They are the ones who have busy schedules. They should give us a date, or they can simply come to our tents here, see how we are living and talk to us,” said farmer leader Kashmir Singh, who is an assistant secretary of the All India Kisan Samiti (Punjab) said.
Amarjeet Singh Rarra, general secretary of Dwaba Kisan Committee, said that farmers are always ready to meet the government but it has to come to them with a concrete solution.
“We have studied their proposals clause by clause, and we have repeatedly told them that we want the laws to be repealed,” Rarra said. The farmer leaders are expected to meet on Tuesday to discuss the next plan of action, said Gurmeet Singh of Krantikari Kisan Union.
“We have already sent them our proposals, and pointed out the issues we had with the government’s proposal. They need to respond to what we have already told them.
“Tomorrow, there will be a Sanyukt Morcha meeting to decide how and when to respond to the government. We will evaluate the government’s letter and then decide,” Gurmeet Singh said.
Asked why the talks with the government have failed to yield any result, he alleged that the three laws were anti-farmer and the government was “favouring the corporates” over the farmers and the common man.
Delhi farmers begin relay hunger strike
Farmers at all sites of protest along Delhi’s borders began their day-long ‘relay’ hunger strike on Monday morning. Protesting farmers will participate in the hunger strike in batches and the first has 11 members, according to farmer leaders.
Swaraj India chief Yogendra Yadav had on Sunday said, “Farmers will begin a day-long relay hunger strike on Monday at all sites of protest against the new agri laws. It will be started by a team of 11 members at protests sites here, including the Singhu border.”
He also urged “everyone at all protest sites across the nation to participate in the same”.
Meanwhile, a group of 11 farmers in Uttar Pradesh’s Bindki sat on an indefinite relay fast against the three agri laws.
The farmers, led by District Panchayat member Bablu Kalia, sat on the relay fast from Sunday at Ambedkar party, Station House Officer Bindki Satyendra Singh said.
Bablu said that the new farm laws are “death warrant” for the farmers and they will protest it till they are withdrawn.
Farmers are protesting against the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020, the Farmers Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020, and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020.
The government has projected the laws as major reforms in the agriculture sector that will remove middlemen and allow farmers to sell their produce anywhere in the country.
However, the protesting farmers have expressed apprehension that the new laws would pave the way for eliminating the safety cushion of the minimum support price and do away with the mandis, leaving them at the mercy of big corporates.
With inputs from PTI