Farmer leaders say nothing new in govt's letter

Farmer leaders say nothing new in govt's letter, always ready for talks but Centre must offer 'concrete solution'

BKU leader said that the govt, in its letter, mentioned that it wants to hold talks over its earlier proposal of amendments

Farmers raise slogans during their protest against the farm laws at Singhu Border, in New Delhi. Credit: PTI Photo

Farmer leaders on Monday 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 December 9 was cancelled.

In the letter to 40 union leaders, the 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 December 9, 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.

Thousands of farmers have been camping at several Delhi border points against the new farm laws for the last 24 days.

"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.

“We will meet tomorrow, deliberate and then see what has to be done, but our demand remains the same — we want the laws to be repealed or we won’t move,” said Ram Singh, Haryana State President of Ambedkar Sangharsh Morcha.

Enacted in September, the three farm laws have been projected by the central government as major reforms in the agriculture sector that will remove the middlemen and allow farmers to sell 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 Minimum Support Price and do away with the mandi system, leaving them at the mercy of big corporates.

The government has repeatedly asserted that the MSP and Mandi systems will stay and has accused the opposition of misleading the farmers.