Protesting Farmer Unions Defer Decision On Centre’s Offer For Talks Till Wednesday
Farmers gather at a protest site at a road block on the Delhi-Haryana border crossing in Singhu, Delhi, India (Photographer: Prashanth Vishwanathan/Bloomberg)

Protesting Farmer Unions Defer Decision On Centre’s Offer For Talks Till Wednesday

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Protesting farmer unions deferred a decision on the central government's offer for fresh talks to Wednesday, even as Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar expressed the hope that they will soon resume the dialogue to resolve the impasse over the new agri laws.

A group of protesters showed black flags to Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar on Tuesday and even tried to block his convoy in Ambala City, as demonstrations were held in several other states in support of the thousands of farmers, mostly from Punjab and Haryana, who are on a sit-in since November 26 on the borders of the national capital demanding the repeal of the three laws.

In Uttar Pradesh, a group of farmers who were heading to join the protesters clashed with police when they were stopped at Rampur-Moradabad toll plaza.

While a couple of farmer unions have been on a sit-in on the Delhi-Noida border against the farm laws, a group of protesters, mainly residents of Jewar and Dadri in Greater Noida, came out on roads in support of the laws and was stopped by police at Mahamaya Flyover.

In Kerala, the opposition Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) took out a march to the Raj Bhavan to express solidarity with the protesting farmer unions while Governor Arif Mohammed Khan declined approval for a special session of the state assembly on Wednesday proposed by the CPI(M)-led Left Democratic Front Government to discuss and pass a resolution against the three contentious central farm laws.

Also read: Farmers’ Protest: The Right To Protest Vs Public Inconvenience

Addressing a press conference at Delhi's Singhu Border, farmer leader Kulwant Singh Sandhu said that 32 farmer unions from Punjab held a meeting on Tuesday and discussed the next course of action.

The farmer leader said that a meeting of farmer leaders from across India would be held on Wednesday where a decision on the government's talks offer will be taken.

In a letter to 40 union leaders, the Joint Secretary in the Union Agriculture Ministry, Vivek Aggarwal, had on Sunday asked protesting farmer leaders to specify their concerns over its earlier proposal of amendments in the laws and choose a convenient date for the next round of talks so that the ongoing agitation could end at the earliest.

The sixth round of talks on Dec. 9 was cancelled following a deadlock with the farmer unions refusing to budge from their demand for repealing the three laws.

Also read: New Farm Laws: Good Intent, Missing Safeguards

Agriculture Minister Tomar said on Tuesday he is hopeful that protesting unions would soon complete their internal discussions and resume talks with the government to resolve the crisis.

He met two more peasants' bodies from Delhi and Uttar Pradesh that extended support to the legislation.

"Representatives of different farmers' bodies had come to tell that the laws are good and are in the interest of farmers. They had come to urge the government not make any amendments to the laws," Tomar said after meeting the two groups.

"I am hopeful they (protesting farmers' unions) will soon complete their internal discussions and come forward for talks. We will be able to find a solution successfully," the minister said.

Farmers gathered at a protest site on the Delhi-Haryana border crossing in Tikri, Delhi, India. (Photographer: Anindito Mukherjee/Bloomberg)

However, Sandhu accused the government of creating "dummy and fake organisations that don't have any past" to undermine their agitation.

The farmer leader said that they would also write to Britain MPs, urging them to press their Prime Minister Boris Johnson not to attend India's Republic Day celebrations on January 26. Johnson will be the chief guest at the event next month.

Also read: The Plan The Centre Should Put To Punjab And Haryana’s Farmers

At the press conference, Sandhu said that farmer leaders will observe "Shaheedi diwas" from Dec. 23-26. Protesting unions have already given a call to halt toll collection on highways in Haryana from Dec. 25 to 27.

The All India Trade Union Congress and its associate unions said they will observe Dec. 23 as "Skip Lunch" day to express solidarity with the farmers.

Earlier in the day, Tomar asserted that the new farm reform laws will herald a new era in Indian farming and said the government is still willing to continue talks with protesting unions on all contentious issues.

"The Government has had many rounds of talks with farmer unions and is willing to continue the dialogue on contentious issues, clause by clause, with an open mind," an official statement said.

Tomar, along with Food Minister Piyush Goyal and Minister of State for Commerce Som Parkash, is holding discussions with 40 protesting unions.

In Maharashtra, farmers protested outside the office of Mumbai suburban district collector demanding the withdrawal of the farm laws. The protest was supported by the 'Prahar' organisation, headed by state minister Bacchu Kadu.

A group of farmers from the state has already left for Delhi to support the peasants.

Enacted in September, the three farm laws have been projected by the central government as major reforms in the agriculture sector that will remove the middlemen and allow farmers to sell anywhere in the country.

Also read: Modi Defends New India Farm Laws As Protests Continue to Simmer

However, the protesting farmers have expressed apprehension that the new laws would pave the way for eliminating the safety cushion of Minimum Support Price and do away with the mandi system, leaving them at the mercy of big corporates.

The government has repeatedly asserted that the MSP and Mandi systems will stay and has accused the opposition of misleading the farmers.

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