Punjab Farmers Reject Talks with Agriculture Secretary, Says Won't Talk with Anybody Less than Union Minister

File photo of farmers protesting against farm bills.

File photo of farmers protesting against farm bills.

The agitating farmers’ bodies, rejected the invitation for talks from the Union agriculture secretary, saying an officer does not have to tell them if these laws are beneficial for farmers.

Punjab’s several farmers’ bodies on Wednesday rejected the Union agriculture department’s invitation for a meeting over the new farm laws, saying they will not talk to anybody less than the Union agriculture minister over the issue. The agitating farmers’ bodies, rejected the invitation for talks from the Union agriculture secretary, saying an officer does not have to tell them if these laws are beneficial for farmers.

The invite for talks should come from the Union agriculture minister, said Buta Singh Burjgill, the president of Bhartiya Kisan Union (Dakunda). The farmers’ organisations also rejected Chief Minister Amarinder Singh’s appeal to them to ease their rail roko’ agitation to allow goods trains to pass through the state, a decision which termed as ”regrettable” by the CM. The farmers’ bodies also gave an ultimatum to the chief minister to convene a special session of the Punjab assembly for passing a resolution to reject these farm-related laws within a week otherwise, they said, they would gherao Congress leaders and government representatives.

The chief minister, however, asserted that his government cannot be forced to take hasty steps by ultimatums. Different farmers’ bodies have been holding state-wide protests against the new farm laws.

The farmers’ organisations rejected the Centre’s invite to talk to it saying an officer does not have to tell them if the three central laws are beneficial for them. ”We reject the letter of invitation for a meeting coming from an officer (secretary) of the Agriculture Department. We are not going to talk to any officer. We are ready for talks provided a proper and written invitation comes from the Central government, said a representative of a farmers’ organisation. Farmers said a secretary-rank officer of the Union Agriculture Department had invited five to six farmers’ leaders to participate in a conference to address their concerns on October 8 at Delhi.

If an officer wants to tell us about the benefits of these laws, we are not going to hear it as we know these legislations are against the farming community, said Jagmohan Singh, general secretary of Bhartiya Kisan Union (Dakunda). When asked about Chief Minister Amarinder Singh’s appeal to ease their rail-roko’ stir, farmers’ leaders said they would continue with it.

We are farmers and we know farming practices very well. We know when DAP or urea is needed, another farmers’ leader said. Electricity is being purchased from outside and the paddy sowing season is already over, he added.

Farmers, however, said they would consider the CM’s appeal in the next meeting on October 15. Meanwhile, Chief Minister Singh regretted the farmers’ decision not to heed his appeal to allow god trains to pass through the state.

”It is regrettable as by not relaxing their agitation, these organisations were damaging the interests of the farmers as well as the state,” the chief minister rued. ”The state government urgently needs to transport foodgrain, coal, fertilizer and petroleum on priority, besides lifting the paddy grain from the mandis,” he pointed out, urging the farmers’ unions not to endanger the farmers’ interest by their decision. The CM, in a statement, said if the current stocks of wheat and rice were not lifted from the godowns, there would be no storage capacity left for the next harvest.

He noted that the state’s coal stocks were critical, and if not replenished soon, there would be severe power shortages, which would hamper the wheat sowing operations. Amarinder Singh also pointed out that with fertilizer stocks running low, potato sowing would also be adversely affected.

With blockades at petrol stations, oil flow was also getting affected, which would impact the movement of tractors and the farming produce, said the CM. The CM also rejected the one-week ultimatum of the farmers’ unions for holding a special assembly session to negate the farm laws, saying he will do what he feels is necessary for the farmers’ interest.

While he had already said he would be calling a special session of the Vidhan Sabha to bring in necessary amendment Bills, issuing ultimatums is not the way to force a government into taking hasty steps, the CM said. The Unions’ threat to gherao his residence or the houses of the state ministers and Congress leaders would not force him into taking any decision which may eventually turn out to be detrimental to the interests of farmers, he said..

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