Read today’s top updates

10.40: Farmers’ unions agree “in-principle” to hold talks with Centre on December 30 on the three contentious agriculture laws, reports PTI. They however say that the Centre should have spelt out agenda of meeting in its invite.

8.22 pm: Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh directs police to take action against those vandalising mobile towers in the state, reports ANI. The decision comes after footage of people doing so, in the name of expressing support to the protests against farm laws emerged on social media.

8.21 pm: Communist Party of India (Marxist) General Secretary Sitaram Yechury says Opposition parties might be supporting the farmers but have no direct role in the agitation against new farm laws, reports IANS.

7.15 pm: While flagging off the 100th run of Kisan Rail in Maharashtra, Prime Minister Narendra Modi congratulates crores of Indian farmers amid protests against the farm laws, reports the Hindustan Times. “The farmer used to spend a lot on rent for transporting his crop to distant markets,” Modi adds. “In view of this problem, three years ago our government gave 50% subsidy on transportation of tomatoes, onions and potatoes.”

7.13 pm: Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar says the Narendra Modi government should take the farmers’ protest “very seriously”, reports ANI. “There has to be dialogue and solution,” Pawar adds. “I heard... there are four or five suicides. If that type of situation is developing, it’s not good for the country.”

7.10 pm: Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar tells 25 farmer organisations that with their support the Centre can implement the new farm laws, reports ANI. “A new path will be created and India’s agriculture will prosper,” he says amid intensifying protests.

7.07 pm: The farmer organisation says that preparations are underway to hold large rallies in Patna and Thanjavur tomorrow. “The strength at Ghazipur, Shahjahanpur has risen and on December 30th a tractor rally is scheduled to start from Singhu border,” says a press release.

7.05 pm: According to the All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee, the farmers want to hold a meeting with the Centre to discuss the following matters:

  • Modalities to be adopted for the repeal of the three Central farm Acts.
  • Mechanisms to be adopted to make remunerative MSP recommended by the National Farmers’ Commission into a legally guaranteed entitlement for all farmers and all agricultural commodities.
  • Amendments to be made and notified in the Commission for the Air Quality Management in National Capital Region and Adjoining Areas Ordinance, 2020 to exclude farmers from the penal provisions of the ordinance.
  • Changes to be made in the draft Electricity Amendment Bill, 2020, to protect the interest of the farmers.

7 pm: The All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee says the government’s letter written to the farmer organisations is woefully short of any attempt to resolve the deadlock over the farm laws.

“Letter of GoI [government of India] indicates that it is being clever with words and not willing to discuss agenda proposed by farmers organisations; this exposes double-speak of government,” says a statement. “Government claims open mind, but adamant on laws remaining; now says success depends on no politicisation! GOI seeking to blame farmers to cover up its refusal on withdrawing Acts is arrogant and shameful.”

4.45 pm: Niti Aayog Vice Chairman Rajiv Kumar claims that false narratives about agricultural laws is doing significant harm to farmers’ interests and the economy, reports PTI.

4.42 pm: In a letter, the Narendra Modi government says it is committed to finding a logical solution on all relevant matters and invites 40 protesting farmer unions for meeting on December 30.

4.33 pm: The Centre calls protesting farmers for a meeting on December 30 at 2 pm in Delhi’s Vigyan Bhawan, reports ANI. On Saturday, farmers had proposed that the talks be held on December 29 at 11 am.

1.25 pm: Social activist Anna Hazare threatens to go on a hunger strike if the Narendra Modi government fails to resolve the problems raised by him in connection with the agricultural laws, reports PTI. The 83-year-old also says that this would be his “last protest”.

“The government is just giving empty promises due to which I do not have any trust left,” he says. “Let’s see, what action the Centre takes on my demands. They have sought time for a month, so I have given them time till January-end. If my demands are not met, I will resume my huger strike protest. This would be my last protest.”

On December 14, Hazare wrote a letter to Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar about the implementation of the MS Swaminathan Committee’s recommendations and granting autonomy to the Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices.

11.00 am: Rajasthan Congress Spokesperson Govind Singh Dotasra says the party will hold dialogue with farmers in all Assembly constituencies of the state from December 28 to December 30 to create awareness about the farm laws. He adds that they are against the interests of the farmers.

10.57 am: Congress Spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala asks why Prime Minister Narendra Modi is silent about the farmers’ protest. “Can’t he see the pain of farmers?” he says, according to News18. “When will he take back the three black bills?”

10.52 am: Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra says it is a sin to use the words that the Centre is using for the farmers, News18 reports. She adds that the government should accept the farmers’ demand to repeal the three laws.

10.47 am: Prime Minister Narendra Modi will flag off the 100th “Kisan Rail” service from Sangola in Maharashtra to Shalimar in West Bengal at 4:30 pm on Monday. The train will carry vegetables and perishable commodities.

8.06 am: Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh lambasts the Bharatiya Janata Party for using “malicious and derogatory terms” against the protesting farmers, reports The Indian Express. The Congress leader asks the saffron leaders to stop maligning the farmers’ agitation and their “genuine fight for justice” by labelling them “urban Naxals”, “Khalistanis” and “hooligans”.

“If the BJP cannot distinguish between anguished citizens fighting for their survival and terrorists/militants/hooligans, it should give up all pretense of being a people’s party,” Singh says in a statement. “A party which regards citizens exercising their democratic right of protest as Naxals and terrorists has lost all right to rule over those citizens.”

8.02 am: Residents of Mohali in Punjab held demonstrations on Sunday in support of the farmers who are protesting the new agricultural reforms, reports The Indian Express. “The union government must repeal the laws with immediate effect,” said Akwinder Singh Gosal, one of the protesters at Phase 3B-2 market in the city. “These laws will ruin the farmers. The farmers who are protesting are making genuine demands.”

8 am: At least 10 political prisoners in Kolkata, West Bengal, started a hunger strike on Sunday to express their solidarity with the protesting farmers, reports PTI. In a statement released from the Dumdum Central Jail, the prisoners described the laws as “anti-farmer”, and alleged that the Bharatiya Janata Party-led central government passed the legislations by taking advantage of the ongoing coronavirus situation.

7.57 am: The Shiromani Akali Dal criticises the Bharatiya Janata Party for terming farmers of Punjab “urban naxals”, and demands that the party should apologise to them, The Indian Express reports.

“It is reprehensible that the Punjab BJP unit has fallen so low that it is calling the farmers of the state urban naxals,” SAD Kisan Wing President Sikandar Singh Maluka says in a statement. “This insult is intolerable and I advise the Punjab unit [of the BJP] to take back this slur inflicted on the ‘annadaata’ immediately and apologize for the same.”

7.52 am: Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Tomar expresses hope that the farmer unions’ decision to return for negotiations with the government on December 29, would finally end the stalemate between them over the new farm laws, reports The Indian Express. “I hope that the farmers will appreciate the situation and the reality of the law,” he says. “Talks will take place, and a solution will be found.”

Meanwhile, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh reaffirms that the Centre has no intention of scrapping the minimum support price MSP regime, saying that nobody can take away land from the farmers.

7.48 am: Here are the top updates from Sunday

  • A group of farmers protesting the new agricultural legislations banged pots and utensils on Sunday during Narendra Modi’s “Mann Ki Baat” radio programme to express their discontent against the prime minister and his government. The farmers said they did not wish to listen to a leader who was not willing to listen to them.  
  • Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal visited the Singhu border to meet farmers protesting against the new agriculture laws, and appealed to the Centre to repeal the legislations. This was Kejriwal’s second visit to the border, where thousands are protesting since November.  
  • Bharatiya Janata Party President Jagat Prakash Nadda shared a video from 2015 of Congress leader Rahul Gandhi’s speech in Lok Sabha to assert that he was misleading the farmers protesting against the new farm laws. The Congress responded, saying that while the party wanted reforms in the farm sector, it was still against the three “black laws”.  
  • Bharatiya Janata Party General Secretary Dushyant Gautam alleged that the Congress wanted to convert peaceful farmer protests into “bloodshed” as he accused the Punjab government of orchestrating an attack on saffron workers in the state.
  • Former Karnataka Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to end the stalemate between his government and the protestors, but at the same time said that he felt the farmers should keep “an open mind” over the new legislations.