Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Thursday urged both the Centre and the farmers to resolve the standoff over the agricultural laws, saying that it was a matter of national security, PTI reported.
Singh made the remarks after his meeting with Union Home Minister Amit Shah at his residence in Delhi. “Discussion is going on between farmers and [the] Centre, there’s nothing for me to resolve,” Singh said. “I reiterated my opposition [to the laws] in my meeting with Home Minister [Amit Shah] and requested him to resolve the issue as it affects the economy of my state and security of the nation.”
Meanwhile, the representatives of farmers’ unions began another round of discussions with the Centre to try and break the impasse over the agricultural laws. Tens of thousands of farmers, mostly from Punjab and Haryana, have camped out at the entrance to Delhi for the eight consecutive day to reverse the agricultural legislations, which they fear could pave the way for the government to stop buying grains at guaranteed prices, leaving them at the mercy of private buyers.
The last meeting between the farmers and the Centre on Tuesday had failed to end the deadlock. Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar told ANI that he was hoping for a positive outcome after the talks with farmers.
Farmers have warned that Thursday’s talks would be the “last chance” for the government to take a decision, failing which, the farmers “movement will become huge and the government will fall”.
Singh and the Congress party have strongly opposed the Centre’s farm laws. The Punjab chief minister himself protested against the laws in Delhi in November. The Punjab Assembly had also passed three bills to counter the Centre’s farm laws on October 20.
The farmers agitation has been met with violent action from police, who have attempted to turn them back by using water cannons and tear gas. The authorities had taken extraordinary measures to set up blockades on highways – parking buses, trucks and other large vehicles. At some places, they even dug up trenches to obstruct farmers, many of whom camped on highways for the night in chilling temperatures.
The three farm laws
The Parliament had passed three ordinances – Farmers Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion & Facilitation) Ordinance 2020, The Farmers (Empowerment & Protection) Assurance and Farm Service Ordinance 2020 and The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Ordinance 2020 – in September. They were signed into laws by President Ram Nath Kovind on September 27.
Taken together, the three legislations loosen regulations on the sale, pricing and storage of agricultural produce. They allow farmers to sell outside mandis notified by the Agricultural Produce Market Committee. They enable contract farming through deals with private sector companies. They take food items like cereals and pulses off the list of essential commodities, lifting stock limits on such produce.
Farmers and traders have alleged that the government wants to discontinue the minimum support price regime in the name of reforms. They fear that the laws will leave them at the mercy of corporate powers. The government has maintained that farm laws will bring farmers better opportunities and usher in new technologies in agriculture.
The government claims the new laws would give farmers the freedom to sell in the open market. But farmers say the laws will weaken the minimum support price mechanism under which the government buys agricultural produce, leave farmers to the mercy of market forces and threaten food security.
Most Opposition parties and farmers’ organisations across the country have strongly opposed the bills. The Shiromani Akali Dal, one of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s oldest allies, pulled out of the National Democratic Alliance in September in protest against these bills.