Farmers to go ahead with the tractor-trolley march to the capital on January 26 as deadlock continues after the eighth round of talks

Published : January 09, 2021 11:17 IST

Wives and daughters of farmers practise driving tractors on the outskirts of Amritsar on January 8 in order to take part in the tractor march to Delhi on January 26. Photo: NARINDER NANU/AFP

The eighth round of talks between the Central government and the 40-plus farmer organisations did not yield any result as the government continued to be obdurate and refused to repeal the three contentious farm laws, give a legal guarantee for the Minimum Support Price (MSP), and assure procurement. The government insisted that the farmer organisations should give alternative solutions instead of insisting on the repeal of the laws.

In the last round of talks held on January 4, the government had agreed that only the laws would be on the agenda for the meeting on January 8. Instead, the government opened up new goalposts and suggested that farmers should implead themselves in the petitions on the farm laws in the Supreme Court. Some individuals have petitioned the Supreme Court challenging the farm laws and also to remove the protesting farmers from the borders of Delhi. The court is expected to hear them on January 11. The farmers themselves have not approached the courts.

Speaking to the media after the talks were over, Narendra Singh Tomar, Union Agriculture Minister, said that he requested the farmers to present an alternative other than the demand for repealing the laws. “During the discussions many things came to our notice and theirs as well. There are many who support the law,” he said. He also said that he had met one Baba Lakha Singh, the leader of a Sikh sect, after the latter wrote to him saying that he was “pained” with the situation of farmers at the Delhi borders. The Minister said that he requested Baba Lakha Singh to “talk” to the unions to find a solution and an alternative other than repeal of the laws.

Gurnam Singh Chaduni of the Bharatiya Kisan Union, Haryana, reacting to the Minister’s reported discussions with Baba Lakha Singh, said: “This matter is to be decided between the farmers’ unions and the government. There should be no confusion of any kind. Any decision will be taken by the farmers only and not by anyone else.”

The farmers unanimously rejected the government’s suggestions on the grounds that the onus to repeal the laws lay with the government and not the courts. Hannan Mollah, working group member of the All India Sangharsh Coordination Committee (AIKSCC), said: “We asked the government why they sent the Model Acts to the State governments if they had to bring in the ordinances by stealth at night. We said we will not agree to anything less than a repeal of the laws. We also said we will not approach the courts.” Hannan Mollah is also the general secretary of the All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS). “We will meet and decide whether to attend the meeting of January 15,” he said.

Kavitha Kuruganti, a member of the AIKSCC, said: “It is indeed a sad day for Indian democracy that in the middle of talks when an elected government which has been cheating the farmers says that the matter should be resolved by the Supreme Court. The court has already looked at the eviction [from the protest points] issue and upheld the rights of the farmers to protest. Even if the court looks at the constitutionality, the farmers are questioning the policy implications of the laws.”

Gurnam Singh Chaduni told the media that the government was only convening meetings. Commenting on the government’s statement that it would meet a seven-member delegation, he said in a video message: “We will decide how many people will attend and whether to attend or not. I don’t know what is the government made of—it is indifferent to the fact that so many farmers have died and many are falling ill as well. We will take out our tractor trolley march on January 26. It will be the final match. We will break barricades, They can do whatever they want—hit us, shoot us. They will be responsible for whatever happens after that.”

Sarwan Singh Pandher, general secretary of the Kisan Sangharsh Mazdoor Samiti, said that once again the government declined to repeal the laws. “We rejected the proposal right away. We told them to discuss the repeal of the farm laws and nothing else,” he said. “Nothing is going to come out of the January 15 meeting also. It is more a media event,” he said.

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