Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar on Thursday said the Centre was ready to address the farmers’ concerns about the new agricultural laws, and reiterated that the minimum support price will not be affected.
Earlier in the day, All India Kisan Sabha General Secretary Hannan Mollah criticised Union minister Raosaheb Danve’s claims about the protestors. The minister had alleged that Pakistan and China had incited the protesting farmers in the same way that Muslims in India were provoked to agitate against the Citizenship Amendment Act.
Several Bharatiya Janata Party politicians have called the farmers “misguided” and alleged they have “Khalistani and Maoist” links, without providing evidence to support their claims.
Meanwhile, farmers’ unions on Wednesday rejected the Centre’s written proposal, detailing the amendments it was willing to make to the three agriculture laws. The farm unions said they would strengthen their agitation with a countrywide protest on December 14.
Farmers, mostly from Punjab and Haryana, have been camping along Delhi’s borders for 15 days now, saying they won’t leave until the government rolls back what they called the “black laws”. The Centre has tried to allay fears in several rounds of talks, but has not offered to repeal the legislations.
Here’s what happened through the day:
9.59 pm: Shiromani Akali Dal chief Sukhbir Singh Badal strongly condemns the Centre’s stand of not repealing the three new farm laws, reports ANI. “Today’s press conference by the Centre proves that they have decided to fight against the country’s ‘annadata [one who provides food]’” he adds.
6.16 pm: Due to the Kisan agitation in Punjab, several trains will remain cancelled or short-terminated or short-originate or diverted, says Chief Public Relations Officer of Northern Railway, according to News18.
6.10 pm: Farmers’ representative Boota Singh says they had given an ultimatum till Thursday. “...if Prime Minister Narendra Modi does not listen to us and does not repeal laws, we’ll block railway tracks,” he adds, reports ANI. “It was decided in today’s meeting that all the people of India will take to the tracks. Sanyukt Kisan March will fix a date and announce.”
6.08 pm: Bhartiya Kisan Union (R) Balbir Singh Rajewal says the Centre has admitted the laws have been made for traders. “If agriculture is a State subject, they do not have the right to make laws regarding it,” he adds, according to ANI.
5.00 pm: Goyal appeals to the union leaders to let the protestors go back home, in view of the coronavirus crisis and the cold weather. “They can continue negotiations with the government.”
4.58 pm: The minister says the farmers will not be forced to sell their produce in private market. “This claim is completely erroneous,” Goyal says.
4.54 pm: Goyal says that the new laws give the farmers more choices to sell their produce.
4.50 pm: “The Centre has the power to form the laws related to the Concurrent list,” Goyal says.
4.49 pm: Union minister Piyush Goyal is now speaking to the media.
4.47 pm: “I appeal to the unions to decide on the next round of talks,” Tomar says.
4.43 pm: Tomar clarifies concerns that the farmers’ land will be occupied by the industrialists. “Contract farming has been going on for long in Gujarat, Maharashtra, Haryana, Punjab, Karnataka but there has never been such experience,” he says, according to ANI.
He adds: “Still, we have already made provision in the Act that agreement under these laws will only be between processors and farmers’ produce. There is no provision for any lease or agreement over farmers’ land.”
4.41 pm: The agriculture minister says the government intended to liberate the farmers through the new laws, so that they can sell their produce “anywhere, to anyone, at his own price, outside the purview of mandi”, according to ANI.
4.37 pm: Tomar says that the Centre is ready to provide written assurance on MSP to the farmers
4.29 pm: “We also tried to address the farmers’ concerns on the mandis,” Tomar adds.
4.27 pm: Tomar says the government has no ego and is ready to address the farmers’ concerns. “The minimum support price will not get affected,” he repeats.
4.26 pm: Union Agriculture Minister addresses the media.
3.33 pm: Union Minority Affairs Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi says the Centre is sensitive about the demands made by farmers and has addressed their main concerns in a transparent manner, reports PTI.
2.26 pm: Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut says that if the government knows that Pakistan and China have a hand in the farmers’ protests, it should conduct a “surgical strike” on them, according to India Today. He was reacting to the allegations of Union minister Raosaheb Danve that China and Pakistan incited the farmers to protest.
2.25 pm: Bharatiya Kisan Union’s Manjeet Singh says more farmers are coming to join the protests, reports India Today. “The govt [government] intends to weaken the farmers’ movement but many more farmers are coming to Delhi to join the movement,” he says. “We appeal to the people of Delhi to support us.
2.22 pm: Union minister warns people to not fall prey to fake and misleading news and rumours about the farm laws. “APMC Mandis will continue to operate and No APMC Mandi was closed after the new farm laws were passed,” he tweets. “Know the reality behind the new farm laws and reforms.”
2.18 pm: Bharatiya Kisan Union Ekta Ugrahan observe human rights day at Tikri border, demadning release of writers, rationalists and intellectuals, mainly arrested in the Elgar Parisha case, including Gautam Navlakha, Anand Teltumbde, Sudha Bhardwaj, Varvara Rao and others, reports The Times of India.
2.15 pm: Priests of Harmandir Sahib, also known as the Golden Temple, in Punjab offer prayers for the protesting farmers.
2.12 pm: Gugurgam Police beef up security at various toll plazas, traffic junctions on the Delhi-Haryana border in view of farmers’ plans to block the Delhi-Jaipur Highway during the week, reports The Times of India. “We have issued an advisory to all officials concerned to take necessary precautionary measures in view of plans to block the expressway and toll plaza,” Assistant Commissioner of Police Usha Kundu says.
1.40 pm: A farmer leader from Hisar, Suresh Koth, says that almost 40% of protestors at Singhu border are from Haryana, while the rest are from Punjab, reports The Indian Express.
11.47 am: All India Kisan Sabha General Secretary Hannan Mollah hits back at Union minister Raosaheb Danve over allegations that the protests are incited by Pakistan and China, according to ANI.
“This is an insult to the Indian farmers,” Mollah says. “The farmers are lead by their own interests and do not bother about any other forces.”
11.39 am: Farmers’ leader Shiv Kumar Kakka dismisses speculations of rift among the unions, reports the Hindustan Times. “We take decisions unanimously,” says Kakka. “It is about consensus and not majority... it cannot be that some people are agreeing to it and others are not. If all unions say the laws should be scrapped, that’s our decision...There is no question of having a personal opinion.”
8.40 am: The Bhartiya Kisan Union (Ugrahan) says it plans to demand the release of several “intellectuals and human rights activists”, who were booked under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act for alleged Maoist links and for instigating Delhi riots, on Human Rights Day on Thursday, reports The Indian Express.
Pictures of more than 20 accused, including Varavara Rao, Sudha Bharadwaj, Gautam Navlakha, Vernon Gonsalves and Arun Ferreira, will be put up on a stage near the Tikri border, the farmers’ union says. “We will celebrate International Human Rights Day at Baba Banda Singh Nagar, near Tikri border, to raise our voices for the release of intellectuals and human rights activists,” says Jhanda Singh Jethuke, senior vice-president of BKU (Ekta-Ugrahan).
8.34 am: Punjab Cabinet minister Charanjit Singh Channi on Wednesday hit out at the ruling National Democratic Alliance government, alleging that it was trying to sabotage the farmers’ protest, reports the Hindustan Times. Channi said that instead of resolving the issue, the Centre was trying to intimidate Chief Minister Amarinder Singh.
“The BJP government should refrain from filing ED [Enforcement Directorate] and CBI [Central Bureau of Investigation] cases,” he said in a statement. “The people of the state, the Congress party, and the state government stand with the chief minister.”
8.28 am: Union minister Raosaheb Danve on Wednesday claimed that the farmers’ protest was a conspiracy of China and Pakistan, reports PTI. Danve likened the agitation against the contentious farm laws to the protests against the Citizenship Act of last year.
“The agitation that is going on is not that of farmers, China and Pakistan have a hand behind this,” he said. “Muslims in this country were incited first. What was said [to them]? That NRC is coming, CAA is coming and Muslims will have to leave this country in six months. Did a single Muslim leave?”
8.25 am: The farmers’ protest against the agricultural legislations enters the 15th day on Thursday, as hundreds of thousands of them, who are camping in the outskirts of Delhi, vowed to not go back till the Centre abolishes what they have called the “black laws”.
8.20 am: Here are the top updates from Wednesday
- Farmers’ unions rejected a written proposal sent by the Centre, detailing the amendments it was willing to make to the three agriculture laws. They said they would intensify their agitation against the legislations with a nationwide protest on Monday. Members of the Krantikari Kisan Union also said that they will block the Delhi-Jaipur highway on Saturday.
- A five-member delegation of opposition parties met President Ram Nath Kovind and sought the repeal of the three farm laws against which thousands of farmers have been protesting. The opposition leaders also raised concerns that the laws threatened the country’s food security, laid basis for abolishment of the Minimum Support Price regime and exposed the agriculture sector to the “caprices of multinational agri-business corporates and domestic corporates”.
- The Shiv Sena said that the Bharat Bandh called by farmers’ unions protesting against the agricultural laws was a befitting reply to the “state-sponsored anarchy”. Opposition parties, along with trade unions, retail and transport associations and many professional bodies, supported the nationwide shutdown on Tuesday from 11 am to 3 pm to repeal the three contentious laws.
- The Aam Aadmi Party alleged that Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal’s movement was still restricted and the main gate of his residence was kept closed by the police. The Delhi Police, however, denied the charge. On Tuesday, the party had claimed that Kejriwal was put under house arrest after he met farmers at the city’s Singhu border. The police had dismissed those claims as well.