Farmers reject the government’s amendment proposals, announce fresh round of protests against the farm laws

Published : December 10, 2020 08:25 IST

Farmers protesting against the farm laws at Singhu border near Delhi on December 8. Photo: SAJJAD HUSSAIN/AFP

A set of proposals by the Central government ostensibly aimed at addressing the grievances of farmers was rejected unanimously by the joint committee of farmer organisations on December 9.

The farmer leaders said that the government’s proposals were basically “old proposals dressed up as new” and announced a fresh round of protests against the farm laws. These include the blocking of the Delhi-Jaipur highway, making toll plazas free for all on December 12, boycotting all Reliance products, including Jio SIMs, and protesting in front of district headquarters in some of the North Indian States on December 14. Indefinite protests will be launched in the rest of the country after December 14 as well.

After a four-hour marathon meeting called by Union Home Minister Amit Shah with the farmers on December 8, the government offered to come up with a set of written proposals. The farmers said they would take a decision after studying the proposals. They also told the Home Minister that the government should have consulted the farmers before issuing the farm ordinances, which later became laws.

The proposals put forth by the government appear to be aimed at legitimising private mandis and private traders under the garb of allowing State governments to levy taxes and cess on private mandis. One of the major objections of the farmers was that private mandis should not be given a legal status as that would sound the death knell of the Agriculture Produce Marketing Committees (APMC).

The proposals made by the government were: one, that States would be given more powers for registration of private mandis; two, farmers would get the option of approaching the courts for dispute resolution instead of only the district administration, which has been made the ultimate arbiter under the agricultural laws; three, registration within 30 days of contracts between a company and a farmer; four, the right to mortgage a farmer’s land under the Contract Farming Act; five, “attachment” of a farmer’s land would be disallowed; and six, a written assurance would be given on procurement at MSP rates as well as for a long-term solution for stubble burning. As for the Electricity (Amendment) Bill, it was in a draft stage, the government note said.

Inderjit Singh, vice president, Haryana State unit of the All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS), told Frontline: “The government itself agrees that amendments are required. If that is the case, then why not repeal the laws? Farmers had already sent a clause by clause objection to the farm laws. In the last round of talks with the Agriculture Minister, farmers wanted the government to answer either Yes or No to their demands. All the proposed amendments have already been rejected earlier.”

Gurnam Singh Chaduni (Bharatiya Kisan Union, Haryana), one of the delegation members who met the Union Home Minister, told the media that there was “nothing” in the proposals. “We rejected them completely. It shows that the government is stubborn and does not want to give anything. If there are new proposals, we will study them,” he said.

Meanwhile, a five-member delegation of the opposition parties gave a memorandum to the President of India Ram Nath Kovind on behalf of more than 20 political parties. These parties have extended their support to the ongoing protests. The delegation comprised Rahul Gandhi, vice president, Congress; Sitaram Yechury, general secretary, Communist Party of India (Marxist); D. Raja, general secretary, Communist Party of India (CPI); Sharad Pawar, president, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP); and T.K.S. Elangovan, Rajya Sabha MP of the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK).

The memorandum urged the President “as the custodian of the Indian Constitution” to persuade “your government” not to be obdurate and accept the demands raised by India’s “annadatas” as the “the new Agri-Laws, passed in the Parliament in an anti-democratic manner preventing a structured discussion and voting, threaten India’s food security, destroy Indian agriculture and our farmers, lay the basis for the abolishment of the Minimum Support Price (MSP) and mortgage Indian agriculture and our markets to the caprices of multinational agri-business corporates and domestic corporates”.