The fifth round of negotiations between protesting farmer leaders and the government failed to break the impasse on Saturday, setting the stage for a show of strength by farmer unions at a Bharat Bandh on Tuesday, followed by the sixth round of talks the next day.
Meeting Union minister Narendra Singh Tomar at the Vigyan Bhavan, farmer leaders refused to budge from their demand of a complete repeal of the three new farm laws. As talks entered the fourth hour, the representative of around 40 farmer unions refused to have any further discussion and resorted to a silent protest. They held up posters and placards with ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ written on them, asking the government to give a clear answer on whether the laws would be repealed.
Tomar, who was accompanied by commerce minister Piyush Goyal and MoS commerce Som Parkash, once again assured the farmers that the minimum support price (MSP) system would not be scrapped and proposed the next meeting on Monday. Farmer leaders, however, cited Tuesday’s Bharat Bandh called by them and proposed to hold the next round of talks on Wednesday.
“The minister said he is going to discuss our demand with the cabinet and needs a day before responding to our demand. Initially, December 7 was proposed for the next round of talks, but we proposed December 9 after the Bharat Bandh,” said All India Kisan Federation leader Kiranjeet Singh Sekhon.
Speaking to the media after the meeting, agriculture minister Tomar again appealed to the farmers to end their protest.
“I want to request protesting farmers to give up their movement so that they don’t face inconvenience in this cold weather and citizens of Delhi can also live a life of convenience,” Tomar said. “Farmers should keep faith in the Narendra Modi government. I want to thank farmer unions for maintaining discipline… We request kisan unions to send elderly and children back home,” he added.
Reacting to the appeal, Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) Ugrahan faction head Joginder Singh said, “If the government cares about the health of our kids and elderly, why not send us all home by accepting our demand? Minister says the law can be amended. It is like asking us to have a rotten apple with just the damaged parts thrown out, but the apple itself is unfit to be eaten.”
Special Parliament Session to Amend Farm Laws?
The government is considering convening a special session of parliament to amend parts of the agriculture reform bills which have become a cause célèbre for protesting farmers’ groups and the opposition, sources aware of the ruling dispensation’s thinking told News18. The government, sources said, is willing to accommodate “reasonable demands” of the farmers while not caving in to the street protests by farmers mainly from Punjab and Haryana who have blockaded roads to the national capital for 10 days.
The amendments could address three or four crucial demands, including those related to the Minimum Support Price, the price-guarantee scheme that assures farmers that they will get a minimum rate for 22 crops. Other than expanding the basket of crops eligible for MSP support, the government could strengthen this mechanism.
Heavy Traffic Snarls in Delhi
Traffic moved bumper to bumper on key routes in Delhi on Saturday as thousands of protesting farmers stayed put at the national capital’s borders with Haryana and Uttar Pradesh for the 10th day on the trot. The Delhi Traffic Police took to Twitter to inform commuters about the closure of Singhu, Lampur, Auchandi, Safiabad, Piao Maniyari, and Saboli borders. It also said that National Highway-44 was closed on both sides.
According to the police, Tikri and Jharoda borders remain closed for any traffic movement while Badusarai border is open only for light motor vehicles like cars and two-wheelers. Jhatikara border is open only for two-wheelers. However, if anyone needs to commute towards Harayana, they can go via Dhansa, Daurala, Kapashera, Rajokri National Highway-8, Bijwasan/Bajghera, Palam Vihar and Dundahera Borders, the traffic police said.
Singer Diljit Dosanjh Meets Farmers
Popular singer-actor Diljit Dosanjh was spotted at Singhu border extending support to the protesting farmers. “I want to urge the government to accept the demand of farmers. I would also like to urge the media to support us, these farmers are sitting peacefully with their demands, please show that and support us," Diljit said, addressing the farmers and the media.
After addressing the crowd in Punjabi, Diljit shared his views in Hindi and said: “(I am) Talking in Hindi so you don’t have to Google". He urged the media to show how the farmers are sitting peacefully. “Show the reality. There is no khoon-kharaba (bloodshed)," he said.
Trade Unions Lend Support to ‘Bharat Bandh’ Call
A joint platform of 10 central trade unions has extended its support to a call of ‘Bharat Bandh’ by farmer organisations on December 8. The unions had called a nationwide strike on November 26 to protest against recently passed labour codes as well as farm laws, among other issues.
The joint forum comprises Indian National Trade Union Congress (INTUC), All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC), Hind Mazdoor Sabha (HMS), Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU), All India United Trade Union Centre (AIUTUC), Trade Union Co-ordination Centre (TUCC), Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA), All India Central Council of Trade Unions (AICCTU), Labour Progressive Federation (LPF) and United Trade Union Congress (UTUC).
With agency inputs