The Sanyukt Kisan Morcha, representing the protesting farmers’ groups, on Wednesday officially rejected the Narendra Modi government’s December 9 written proposal on the amendments it was willing to make to the three agriculture laws as protests intensified, The Indian Express reported.

An email was sent by Sanyukt Kisan Morcha leader Darshan Pal to Vivek Aggarwal, joint secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare. “With reference to the proposal and letter received from you, we want to inform the government that the farmer unions had held a joint meeting on the same day and discussed your proposal and rejected it because it was the written format of the proposal verbally offered by the government representatives on December 5, 2020,” the letter read.

Pal also asked the government to stop defaming the farmers’ agitation. “We want the government to stop maligning the farmers’ movement and stop parallel negotiations with other farmer organisations,” he wrote.

While Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his party’s leaders have tried to allay farmers’ concerns about the new laws, some of them have called the farmers “misguided”, alleging they are being motivated by separatists and “anti-national” elements.

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Deadlock continues

Last week, Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar had told reporters that the Centre was yet to receive any response from the farmers’ unions about the proposal sent to them on the Singhu border. However, protesting farmers had already verbally rejected the proposal at a press conference the same day.

In its proposal, the Centre said it was willing to make seven amendments to two of the laws – The Farmers Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020 and The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020. It assured farmers that no changes would be made to the existing system of electricity bill payment. One of the demands of the farmers was to scrap the proposed Electricity Amendment Bill, 2020.

It also included a written assurance that government procurement at minimum support prices would continue. The proposal suggested an amendment to allow the state governments to register traders operating outside mandis. It also said that the states can impose tax on them, like they used to do in Agricultural Produce Market Committee’s. However, it said nothing about the farmers’ key demand to repeal the laws.

The negotiations between farmers’ groups and the Centre has not progressed since the last meeting, scheduled to be held on December 9, was cancelled. Tens of thousands of farmers, mostly from Punjab and Haryana, have been protesting at key entry points to Delhi for the last 20 days. Both the government and farmer leaders have reiterated their positions and dialed up the rhetoric, but have not made no concrete efforts to resume discussions to resolve the deadlock.

The farmers fear the agricultural reforms will weaken the minimum support price mechanism under which the government buys agricultural produce, will lead to the deregulation of crop-pricing, deny them fair remuneration for their produce and leave them at the mercy of corporations.

The government, on the other hand, maintains that the new laws will give farmers more options in selling their produce, lead to better pricing, and free them from unfair monopolies.