Farmer leaders to attend assembly with Centre on Saturday; additionally plan to ghearao toll plazas

Vibha Sharma

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, December 4

Even before the ‘nirnayak baithak’ (decisive meeting) tomorrow, farmer unions on Friday gave a call for ‘Bharat Bandh’ on December 8.

Farmers will also be burning effigies of the Narendra Modi government and corporate houses tomorrow — the day Punjab ‘jathebandis’ and other farmer leaders meet Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar regarding the three contentious farm Acts.

Farmers’ leaders, including from Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Telangana/Andhra Pradesh and Bengal, today collectively decided that they will go for the meeting tomorrow but will sit through it only if the Centre assures the three laws will be repealed and guarantees MSP on all 23 crops across the country.

Incidentally, farmers are also planning to ghearao toll plazas to stop them from charging toll tax on a day announced later.

While the Narendra Modi government appears conducive towards some amendments (around nine major issues were identified in yesterday’s meeting) and also give a written assurance on the MSP, it is unlikely to concede to the main demand of a complete roll-back.

It now remains to be seen how much the government is willing to pull-back to buy peace.

One of the times, the Modi Government did a U-turn on a decision was in 2015 when it agreed to drop most of its contentious amendments to the Land Acquisition Act of 2013.

Sources say ministers and officials are holding talks, including with the Law Ministry, to discover a “middle path”.

Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar, who again reiterated that the government was open to farmers’ concerns and wanted to end the deadlock soon, said the APMC would not be weakened.

“The government is conducive to points raised by farmers in the Acts,” he said, adding “We are making an honest attempt to satisfy the farmers on identified points and resolve the issue.”

However, farmer leaders say the government has only two options-either repeal the laws or use force against them in this ‘aar-paar ki ladai’.

“We are approaching a historic win and the government historic loss. They know that if they take back the Acts Modi-aura will finish. Tomorrow, we will ask the Centre if it is ready to take back the laws. Only if they are ready, we will talk. It is time for a decision. We need a guarantee on the MSP, whether the government or the private sector buys,” they said.

BKU leader Yudhvir Singh said talks tomorrow would only be on taking back laws and not amendments. He was supported by Harvinder Singh Lakhowal, Hannan Mollah, Buta Singh Shadipur and other leaders who asserted that “minor amendments will not work and neither will the government’s divide and rule policy”.

“Country’s top 10 trade federations have given us support. This is now a ‘jan andolan’. We do not go there for ‘chai pe charcha’,” said Yogendra Yadav.

Regarding security concerns raised by Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, they said: “There is no security threat. We have not done any damage, He (Punjab CM) knows this well. We don’t believe in violence.”

With support pouring in from across the country, farmers say they are preparing to completely cut-off Delhi from all sides, asking others to join them as the “fight is expected to be long”.

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