Farmer unions protesting against the agricultural laws on Friday said that they will have to take firm steps if the next round of talks with the government fail on January 4, PTI reported.

During the sixth meeting on Wednesday, the farmer organisations and the Centre reached an agreement on the decriminalisation of stubble burning and safeguarding electricity subsidies – two of the four matters. However, deadlock continues on the two main demands of farmers’ – repeal of three farm laws and a legal guarantee for minimum support price system.

Addressing a press conference at the Singhu border, farmer leaders warned that they will start shutting all malls and petrol pumps in Haryana if the other two demands are not met next week. “If the January 4 meeting with the government fails to end the deadlock, we will announce dates for shutting all malls, petrol pumps in Haryana,” said Vikas Sisar, a farmer leader.

Another farmer leader Yudhveer Singh told the Narendra Modi government that their agitation will not end like how it did in Delhi’s Shaheen Bagh area. “They cannot make us leave this place like they did in Shaheen Bagh,” Singh said.

From December 14, 2019, to March 24, 2020, hundreds of protesters had camped at Shaheen Bagh against the Citizenship Amendment Act. The site was cleared by the police after the government announced a nationwide lockdown in March last year.

Representatives of farmer unions said that only 5% of their demands have been discussed in the meetings with the Centre.

Meanwhile, Swaraj India leader Yogendra Yadav said that the government has not moved an inch on withdrawal of the farm laws and a legal guarantee for the MSP. The protests will intensify even as talks continue with the government, Yadav warned.

According to the unions, if the results of the talks on January 4 are not satisfactory, a tractor march will be taken out from the protest site to the Kundli Manesar Palwal Expressway on January 6 and a call will also be given to those farmers protesting at Shahjahanpur on the Haryana-Rajasthan border to move towards the national Capital.

Further, rallies, sit-ins and press conferences will also be organised across India from January 6 to January 20 to counter the propaganda that the protest was “ Punjab-centric”.

Meanwhile, Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar said the government is hopeful of a “positive outcome” in its seventh round of talks with farmer leaders. On whether he expects the January 4 meeting to be the last one, the minister told PTI, “I cannot say for sure now. I am not an astrologer. I am hopeful that whatever decision would be arrived at will be in the interest of the country and of the farmers”.

Farm law protests

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.