Farmers to meet today to decide on future of stir

Rakesh Tikait says Centre has agreed to most of the farmers’ demands, but contours of the proposal are not yet clear.

Rakesh Tikait
Rakesh Tikait

The protesting farmers’ unions on Tuesday said they are “apprehensive” about the Centre’s response to their six pending demands and will hold a meeting on Wednesday to decide the future course of the agitation. Earlier on Tuesday, the Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM), the umbrella body of farmer unions, held a meeting to discuss the Centre’s response and said that some pending issues still remain. “We have sent a few suggestions and objections on the government’s proposal on our pending demands,” the SKM said after the meeting.

Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) leader Rakesh Tikait said that while the Centre has agreed to meet the demands of the farmers, the contours of the proposal are not yet clear. “We have our apprehensions which will be discussed tomorrow at 2pm … Our movement is not going anywhere, [we] will be here,” Rakesh Tikait said. The farmers added they won’t accept the government’s condition that cases will be withdrawn only after the protest is called off.

The farmers had put forth six demands after Prime Minister Narendra Modi last month announced the repeal of the three contentious laws. The primary demand of the farmers was a legal guarantee to ensure Minimum Support Price (MSP) system.

The farmers also demanded withdrawal of Electricity Amendment Bill, removal of the penalty section from the Air Pollution Bill, arrest and removal of Union minister of state for home Ajay Misra Teni, withdrawal of “fake” cases registered against the farmers, rehabilitation of the kin of martyred farmers, and a memorial for the martyred farmers.

In its letter to the farmers’ unions, the Centre has agreed to form a committee to discuss the MSP issue and said it will have representations from the SKM. The Centre also said that UP and Haryana governments will withdraw all cases against the farmers after they call off their protest. It said that both states have also in principle agreed to provide compensation to the kin of farmers who died during the protests.

Earlier, farmer leader Kulwant Singh Sandhu said on Tuesday that a formal announcement will be made on Wednesday. “Nearly all demands raised by us have been met…. Letter (from government with assurances on farmers’ demands) has been received. A consensus has been reached, the final decision will be announced tomorrow,” Sandhu told reporters after a meeting of the SKM. Another farmer leader and SKM member said the agitation is likely to be called off on Wednesday as there have been some positive responses from the government side on the farmers’ demands.

The Samyukt Kisan Morcha arrived at the decision at a crucial meeting held at the Singhu border to discuss the future couse of action after receiving a draft copy of the Centre’s reply to their demands. The Centre’s response came after the farmers put forth six demands after Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the rollback of the three contentious laws. The five-member committee, which is designated to hold talks with the Centre, also took part in the meeting.

Earlier on Tuesday, Congress MP Rahul Gandhi on Tuesday demanded the Centre to give compensation to the families of the farmers who lost their lives in the farmers’ agitation along with jobs. He further said that the Punjab government has already given financial assistance of Rs 5 lakh to the families of the deceased and provided jobs. “I want that the farmers be given their rights, they should be given compensation as well as jobs,” the Congress MP said during the proceedings of the winter session in the Lok Sabha today.

“We found out that Punjab Government has given Rs 5 lakh compensation for around 400 farmers; also provided jobs for 152 of them. I have the list. We have made another list of 70 farmers from Haryana. Your government says that you don’t have their names,” he added. “Around 700 farmers died in farmers’ agitation. The Prime Minister apologized to the nation and farmers of the nation. He accepted that he made a mistake. On November 30, Agricultural Minister (Narendra Singh Tomar) was asked a question—how many farmers died in the agitation? He said he doesn’t have any data,” he said. Rahul Gandhi had moved an adjournment motion notice in Lok Sabha seeking compensation for the families of farmers who died during farm laws protest, said sources.

Congress MP Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury on Tuesday said: “The government has been denying to produce the exact number of deaths of our farmers while protesting at the Delhi borders for 1 year. We have at my disposal a list of more than 400 farmers who died during the protest.” Chowdhury further added that he will cooperate with the government if it wants to identify the farmers who lost their lives during the protest. “We have staged a walkout from the Parliament today as a protest against the government’s apathy and indifference against the farmers,” added Chowdhury.

In a related development, accusing the central government of being “anti-farmer”, the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) announced on Tuesday that its MPs will boycott both houses of Parliament for the remainder of the winter session. Shouting slogans against the government and in support of farmers, TRS MPs staged a walkout from the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha. All the MPs were dressed in black. Party leader Keshav Rao alleged that the government was insensitive to farmers’ demands and was “anti-farmer.” The TRS has been raising the issue of procurement of paddy by the Food Corporation of India from Telangana, party leader in Lok Sabha Nama Nageshwar Rao said. It is the responsibility of the central government to procure paddy from the state and give farmers their due, he said, adding the party has been demanding to bring a bill for the Minimum Support Price.