Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar on Wednesday said that the farmer unions and the Centre had reached a consensus on two key concerns – stubble burning penalty and the Electricity Amendment Act – during their sixth meeting on the contentious farm laws, ANI reported. He added that the next meeting on January 4 will focus on Minimum Support Price and the farmers’ demand to repeal the laws.
Tomar said that the Centre had agreed to not penalise farmers for stubble burning under the Air Quality Commission Ordinance. He added that the two sides also arrived on a consensus about the continuation of electricity subsidies. “Farmers feel that if reform is introduced in the Electricity Act, they’ll suffer loss,” he said. “Farmers’ unions wanted that electricity subsidy given to farmers by states for irrigation should continue.”
The agriculture minister said that the meeting between the two sides ended on a positive note. He also urged the farmers protesting near Delhi in the bitter cold to send the elderly, women and children home.
Bharatiya Kisan Union leader Rakesh Tikait said that the farmers’ two key concerns are yet to be resolved. “We’ll discuss topics related to MSP and repealing of the three farm laws in the next meeting on January 4,” he said.
Balkaran Singh Brar, Punjab President of All India Kisan Sabha, told ANI that the farmer organisations did not agree to government appeals to end the agitation. “We didn’t listen to them,” he said. “We won’t take back our movement.”
The government also told the farmers at the meeting that it could form a committee to deliberate on their demands. Farmer leaders, on the other hand, demanded justice for those who died during protests against the agricultural laws and asked the government to provide compensation to their families. The meeting between the two sides continued for over four hours.
Tens of thousands of farmers, mostly from Punjab and Haryana, have been protesting at key entry points to Delhi for over a month 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.