After another marathon round of talks between farmer leaders and the Centre on Thursday, there appeared to be some signs of a breakthrough. Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar indicated that the government was willing to amend some provisions of new farm laws. The government proposed to strengthen and modernize the APMCs (Agriculture Produce Marketing Committees), popularly known as ‘mandis’. It also agreed to the suggestion of farmer leaders for compulsory registration of all private traders who intend to purchase crops from farmers on contract basis. The government also agreed to amend the provision in law to allow farmers to approach higher courts for appeal in contract farming disputes.
The Centre also agreed for equal taxes for APMC mandis and private markets. The Centre also offered to make stringent provisions to stop corporates from acquiring lands belonging to farmers. The government also offered to give in writing its solemn promise to continue with the minimum support price (MSP) system. Both sides agreed to meet again on Saturday though the mood of farmer leaders at the end of Thursday’s meeting did not appear to be quite positive. The Centre clearly told them that repealing the three new farm laws was unlikely, while the farmer leaders insisted on scrapping the legislations.
At Thursday’s meeting, the farmer leaders had given to the government their objections running into 12 pages, and almost all the points were taken up for discussion. Before the meeting began, the Union Ministers welcomed the 40 farmer leaders with folded hands, but the latter appeared to be aloof. They declined the government’s offer for lunch and brought their meals from gurudwara. They also declined to have tea offered by the government.
On the specific objections raised by farmer leaders, the government is going to have internal discussions on which provisions to amend and it will come up with its offer at the Saturday meeting.
Before the round of talks began on Thursday, Punjab chief minister Capt Amarinder Singh met Home Minister Amit Shah in Delhi to appeal to him to resolve the standoff at the earliest. Amarinder Singh said, the farmers’ agitation could cause harm to Punjab’s economy and it could adversely affect national security. The Captain was not off the mark. He was pointing his finger at Khalistani activists who have now become active, both in India and in places like Canada and New York. They have started their anti-India tirade again.
In my prime time show ‘Aaj Ki Baat’ on Thursday night, we showed how a group of people chanted objectionable slogans like “Modi Teri Qabr Khudegi” in the presence of farmers sitting on dharna at Delhi’s Tikri border. None of the farmers or their leaders objected. The chanting of slogans was recorded on camera by our correspondent Diksha Pandey. This scene reminded one of provocative slogans chanted by anti-national elements in AMU, JNU campuses and at Shaheen Bagh and Delhi Jaffrabad riot spots. The most surprising part was that these mischievous elements from ‘Tukde-Tukde’ gang raised provocative slogans against the Prime Minister, and none of the farmers objected to it.
Farmers have the democratic right to express dissent but they must not allow anti-national elements to infiltrate their ranks and cause unrest. If farmer leaders remain silent to such acts, anti-national elements like Khalistan supporters, who had been lying low for several decades, will get the chance to rear their heads again. This must not be allowed, at any cost. Our neighbouring country, Pakistan, will try to gain advantage from this agitation and the people of India will never tolerate such a situation. We must not allow our nation to become a victim of conspiracy being hatched across the border.
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