A delegation of farmers in Haryana on Monday accepted the newly passed agricultural laws, but said they want certain sections of the legislations to be amended, NDTV reported. This is the first time since the agitation began that a section of farmers has come out in support of the contentious laws.

Representatives of three groups, which claimed to cumulatively represent 1,20,000 farmers from the state, met Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Tomar on Monday evening. The farmers have given a written submission of their support for the laws.

The group said they were individual farmers and representatives of farmer producer organisations, according to News18. The delegation included Bharatiya Kisan Union (Attar) National President Attar Singh Sandhu.

“These bills should be continued as suggested by farmer organisations,” a letter by the farmers stated. “We are in favour of MSP [minimum support price] and mandi [specialised market] system as suggested by farmers’ organisations. But we request you to continue these laws with suggested amendments.”

Tens of thousands of farmers, mostly from Punjab and Haryana, have been protesting at key entry points to Delhi for the last 12 days against the laws. The farmers fear the agricultural reforms will weaken the minimum support price mechanism, and leave them at the mercy of corporations.

The Centre, which claims the laws would revitalise India’s agrarian economy by boosting produce, has made several attempts to placate the farmers. But five rounds of talks have failed to break the impasse so far. The agitation continued and another round of negotiations is scheduled for December 9.

The protests have only grown more significant, as revealed by the government’s willingness to discuss amendments to the law to address the farmers’ concerns. During the last meeting with the government on Saturday, the farmer representatives reportedly turned down the offer of amending the legislations. The Indian Express reported that the government was even considering a special Parliament session to pass amendments, though the farmers have maintained their demand for a full repeal.

In contrast, the farmers’ group from Haryana on Monday said they were not opposed to any amendments that the government may be considering, but they want to the laws to be in force. “We want MSP to continue, we also want the mandi system to continue but we also want more marketing options that these new laws will create,” said Satpal Singh, one of the signatories of a memorandum submitted by the delegation to the farm minister, according to the Hindustan Times.

Dharmendra Arya, member of a Jhajjar-based farmer produce organisation, who also met Tomar said the legislations brought by the government should not be withdrawn, as they “empower the new farmers to sell their produce in open market”.

Arya said that the Centre purchases wheat and paddy from farmers of Punjab and Haryana at MSP but for a limited period of time in each season. “If markets are opened, we can sell other crops through online merchants,” he added. “But amendments should be made as also demanded by the farm unions.”

The 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.