Farmers protesting against the agricultural laws on Thursday said the government’s latest offer of talks to end the deadlock is a propaganda against them to create an impression that they are not interested in negotiations, PTI reported. This came hours after the Narendra Modi government again wrote to them, extending an invitation for talks and reiterated its commitment to a logical solution to all the concerns raised by the farmer groups.
The Sanyukt Kisan Morcha, an umbrella body of 40 farmer unions, is likely to hold a meeting on Friday to discuss the government’s three-page letter and respond to it formally. Farmers, however, said they were not interested in continuing the dialogue unless the Centre is willing to withdraw the three controversial legislations.
The union said their demands, which includes a legal guarantee for minimum support price system, cannot be considered individually or be separated from the repeal of farm laws.
“The government is not serious about our demands and they are writing letters every day,” Sanyukt Kisan Morcha leader Shiv Kumar Kakka told PTI. “The new letter is nothing but a propaganda being created by the government against us to give an impression that we are not interested in holding talks. The government should bring the repeal of the three farm laws in the agenda for a fresh round of dialogue.”
Another farmer leader, Lakhvir Singh, said the government’s letter to the unions does not have any new proposal. “They [government] can say that the laws will not affect the MSP, but the fact is that if the Food Corporation of India is not there in the market, who will buy our crops at the MSP?” he asked.
Avtar Singh Mehma, press secretary of the Krantikari Kisan Union, said the protesting farmers’ want an MSP Guarantee Act. So far, the government has only given written assurances that procurement at at guaranteed prices will continue, failing to convince the protestors.
“The Sanyukt Kisan Morcha will meet on Friday to discuss the government’s letter and then respond to it,” Meena said.
Vivek Aggarwal, joint secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare, on Thursday sought a convenient date and time for further discussion to resolve the standoff in his letter to 40 representatives of farmer unions.
Farm laws protest
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 30 straight days against the laws now, withstanding temperatures dropping to two to three degrees Celsius.
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. The law passed in September are meant to overhaul antiquated procurement procedures and open up the market, the government has claimed.