New Delhi: The fifth round of talks between the government and agitating farmers’ representatives began here on Saturday even as protesting farmers stay put on Delhi’s border points amid heavy police deployment sticking to their demand of repeal of the three farm laws.
Early in the morning Prime Minister Narendra Modi held a meeting with Home Minister Amit Shah, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar and Railway Minister Piyush Goyal to discuss the situation arising out of the farmers agitation which entered tenth day on Saturday. Sources said the Ministers apprised the Prime Minister of the latest situation on the issue. The meeting lasted about one and a half hours. After this meeting the Prime Minister and the Home Minister had a one-on-one which continued for nearly one hour, sources said.
Ahead of the fifth round of the meeting, some farmers’ leaders hoped for a positive outcome but said they want only repeal of the three farm laws. No amendments to the laws would be acceptable to them, they added
The agitating farmers have blocked many key entry routes to Delhi from Haryana and Uttar Pradesh and threatened to intensify their agitation and block more roads if the government did not accept their demands. They have warned that they would hold a Bharat Bandh on December eight if their demands were not met.
The three farm laws which were enacted in September, are being projected by the government as major reforms in agriculture sector mainly to remove middlemen and allow farmers to sell their produce anywhere in the country. However, farmers fear that the new laws would pave way for the entry of corporates in agriculture sector by scrapping the mandi system and eliminating the safety cushion of Minimum Support Price (MSP). The Centre has asserted that these mechanisms would remain.
The Agriculture Minister had said after the fourth round of the meeting on December three that the government had an ‘’open mind’’ on the issue and the MSP system would continue. ‘’The government has no ego and is discussing with the farmers with an open mind…I would like to reiterate that the MSP system will continue and we will assure farmers about it,’’ he said. He said that in the new Act it had been provided that farmers could take their grievances to SDM court. Farmers’ Unions feel that SDM court is a lower court and they should be allowed to go the court. ‘’The government will consider this demand,’’ he added.
The Minister said the agitating farmers also expressed concern over an Ordinance on stubble burning and the Act on electricity. The government is open to consider and discuss these issues as well, he said.
The government would contemplate that the Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC) was strengthened. APMC is a marketing board to ensure that farmers are safeguarded from exploitation by large retailers, as well as ensuring the farm to retail price spread did not reach excessively high levels. Until 2020, the first sale of agriculture produce could occur only at the market yards (mandis) of APMC. One of the farm laws allows farmers to sell their outside APMC mandis in India. The govenment has assured that APMC was further strengthened and its usage increased.
The new laws lay down provision for private mandis outside the purview of the APMC, the Minister said and added that the farmers raised the issue in the meeting that if trade takes place outside the purview of mandi, it would be on the basis of PAN Card. They however, said PAN Card could be easily acquired by anyone today. So trader should be registered.
The government would ensure that the trader gets registered, the Minister said and expressed confidence that the talks would reach a solution.