Farmers harden stance further, warn of pan-India blockade

The warning from the farmer leaders came even as Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar and Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal on Thursday urged them to give up the protests

CHANDIGARH: The protesting farmers on Thursday hardened their stance against new farm laws despite six rounds of talks with the Centre, warning they would block rail tracks across the country if their demand for repealing the laws are not met.

They also asserted that they stood united and any talk of division in their ranks was condemnable.

The warning from the farmer leaders came even as Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar and Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal on Thursday urged them to give up the path of protest and continue talks to reach a solution on the issues related to the new farm legislations.

Various farmer unions met on Thursday and said details of the agitation to disrupt train services would be decided by the Sanyukt Kisan Manch.

The farmer unions, which held a meeting on Thursday, said they will soon announce a date for blocking tracks across the country.

“The situation in Punjab is different because an agitation in the state has already been going for the last two months. On December 14, the agitating farmers will gherao the offices of Deputy Commissioners,’’ said a Punjab farmer leader, Buta Singh.

“We will block railway tracks if our demands are not met. We will decide on the date and announce it soon. The blocking of tracks will not be limited to Haryana and Punjab but it will be done across the country,” Singh said further at the press conference.

“The Centre has admitted that the new laws have been made for traders. If agriculture is a state subject, then the Centre does not have the right to make any laws. So, our argument that these laws will not benefit farmers has been proved right today,’’ Bhartiya Kisan Union, Punjab (Rajewal Group), Balbir Singh  Rajewal, said.

“We warn the government not to stop farmers from coming to Delhi for agitation,’’ said Dr Darshan Pal, president of Krantikari Kisan Union.

The farmer unions had on Wednesday rejected the Centre’s proposals to make amendments in the farm laws and insisted on their repeal.

“Five rounds of talks have already been held with the government, but they remained inconclusive. So far, the government has not sent us any invitation for another round of talks. If government sends us proposal for a meeting, we will decide it in our meeting,” another farmer leader Shiv Kumar Kakka told a news agency.

“We are facing a lot of difficulties due to cold weather and the COVID-19 pandemic, but despite this, we will continue our protest until our demands are met.”

The announcement by farmers came on the day Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar said it was not proper to announce the next stage of agitation when talks were continuing and urged the unions to return to the discussion table.

Tomar also urged farmer union leaders to consider proposals sent to them to break the deadlock over protests against the three new farm laws and said the government is ready for further discussions with them any time.

Thousands of farmers have been protesting at various border points of Delhi for almost two weeks seeking a repeal of the new agri laws, which they claim were aimed at benefitting corporates by weakening the ‘mandi’ system and the minimum support price (MSP) regime for procurement of farm produce.

The government had on Wednesday proposed to give a “written assurance” that the existing MSP regime for procurement will continue.

However, the farmers’ unions rejected the proposal and said they would intensify their agitation until the government accepts their demand for a complete repeal of the three laws.

The government has also proposed to make necessary amendments on at least seven issues, including one to allay fears about the weakening of the ‘mandi’ system.

“Five rounds of talks have already been held with the government, but they remained inconclusive. So far, the government has not sent us any invitation for another round of talks. If government sends us proposal for a meeting, we will decide it in our meeting,” another farmer leader Shiv Kumar Kakka told PTI.

Asked about solution to ongoing standoff with the government, Kakka said, “only God knows.”

“We are facing a lot of difficulties due to cold weather and the COVID-19 pandemic, but despite this, we will continue our protest until our demands are met,” Kakka also added.

Meanwhile, Chandigarh-based farmers’ organisation AIKCC, not one of the 40 unions that are protesting at Delhi borders seeking repeal of the farm laws, on Thursday welcomed the government’s gesture to keep the dialogue open with farm leaders.

B S Mann, founder of Bhartiya Kisan Union and chairman of All India Kisan Coordination Committee (AIKCC) — that represents 20-odd state level farmer organizations — said the committee’s suggestions made to the government in June for some changes in the three farm laws have “prima facie” been accepted.

“It was noticed by the national committee that all the suggestions were prima facie accepted by the government which will lead to end this current stalemate,” AIKCC said in a statement.

It was also observed that the government should announce slew of reforms in regulation in the follow up of less government and more governance, it said.

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