The Union’s top ministers, including Interior Minister Amit Shah, Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar and State Minister for Trade and Industry Som Parkash, grouped together on Sunday as farmers who had been camping on the Delhi borders to Demanding the repeal of three contentious laws aimed at opening up agricultural trade was on its heels.
Tomar and Parkash met with Shah on Sunday as the impasse between the farmers and the Center over the new farm laws continued into the 18th, according to reports. The ministers were accompanied by leaders of the Punjab Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), according to the PTI news agency. Tomar and Parkash, along with their ministerial colleague Piyush Goyal, have led the government’s negotiations with protesting farmers.
Tomar and Parkash met with the Union Interior Minister at his home and it was not immediately known what happened at the meeting, even as the agitation of farmers in and around Delhi entered its 18th day and protesters threatened to block the Delhi-Jaipur highway.
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“Thousands of farmers will start a tractor march at 11 am on December 13 from Shahjahanpur in Rajasthan and block the main Jaipur-Delhi highway,” Sanyukta Kisan Andolan leader Kamal Preet Singh Pannu said on Saturday.
The leader of the farmers union added that they will quickly sit down from 8 am to 5 pm on December 14 at the Singhu border. “On December 14, all the farmer leaders will quickly be seated sharing the stage at the Singhu border. We want the government to withdraw the three agricultural laws; we are not in favor of the proposed modifications. The Center wants to thwart our movement but we will continue it peacefully, ”he said, according to the ANI news agency.
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Pannu claimed that the Center is trying to “fail” the farmers movement, trying to divide the farmers. “We will thwart any attempt by the Center to fail our movement. The government made some small attempts to divide us and instigate the people. But we will peacefully lead this movement to victory, ”he said, according to the ANI news agency.
Farmers, mostly from Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh, have been protesting on the Delhi borders demanding the repeal of the 2020 Farmers’ Agricultural Services and Price Guarantee Agreement (Empowerment and Protection), the Trade in Agricultural Products and Trade (Promotion and Facilitation) Act 2020 and the Essential Products (Amendment) Act 2020.
The three agricultural laws, which were enacted in September, have been projected by the government as major reforms in the agricultural sector that will cut out middlemen and allow farmers to sell anywhere in the country. However, farmers have demanded the repeal of these laws, saying the reforms will make them vulnerable to exploitation by large corporations and weaken the government’s MSP system. Together, these laws allow agribusinesses to market agricultural products without restrictions, allow private traders to store large quantities of essential commodities for future sales, and establish new rules for contract farming.
On Saturday, a delegation of farmers from Haryana, including those related to the Organization of Agricultural Producers, had expressed their support, in a letter, for the three agricultural laws with the modifications proposed by the central government.
The government has held five rounds of formal talks with farmers’ representatives, but the stalemate has continued and unions are sticking to their main demand for repeal of the three contentious laws. The sixth round of talks between the government and agricultural union leaders was canceled.
(With contributions from the agency)