Year 2020 ends on a positive note for the farmers’ struggle following progress in negotiations between farmer leaders and the central government on December 30, 2020.
The four agenda points put forward by farmers are as follows:
1. Modalities to be adopted to repeal the three agricultural laws
2. Procedure and provision for legal guarantee, procurement of profitable MSP for farmers and agricultural commodities
3. Amendments to the “Commission Ordinance for Air Quality Management in the National Capital Region and adjoining areas, 2020” to exclude farmers from the penal provisions
4. Procedure for withdrawal of draft ‘Electricity Amendment Bill 2020’ to protect farmers
Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar agreed to accept the two smaller demands of farmers regarding rise in power tariff and penalties for stubble burning. However, the primary demand regarding the three anti-farmer-dubbed laws and the legal rights to Minimum Support Price.
After the five-hour meeting at Vigyan Bhavan, New Delhi, farmers leaders Yogendra Yadav from Shahjahanpur border and Kavitha Kuruganti assessed the progress during the talk.
Reversing a popular Hindi saying, Yadav said, “poonchh nikli hai, haathi abhi baaki hai” (the tail’s out, now to take out the elephant) implying that farmers would proceed cautiously until their demands regarding the three laws and MSP are satisfied.
Kuruganti, who was present at the talks said, “The Union Ministers immediately accepted the third and fourth agenda points. This is not surprising since the government had accepted these demands in their December 9 proposal as well.”
These demands effectively relieve farmers from heavy penalties like a fine of Rs. 1 crore or five years imprisonment. Similarly, farmers also reserved reservations relating to the Electricity Amendment Bill 2020 such as the suspension of cross subsidy and the effect of Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) on farmers. Further, they pointed out that the Bill infringed on the state government’s constitutional space.
Kuruganti said the government accepted this demand as well. However, regarding the two major agenda points, the government asked farmers to come up with alternative solutions on January 4, 2021.
“The government acknowledged that farmers will not accept amendments but asked for alternatives. This has clearly become an issue of prestige. But farmers organisations say this is unnecessary since we are the largest number of workers and citizens and the government does not need to make this a prestige issue,” she said.
She further stated that Ministers seem to have acknowledged the growing strength of struggle and thus asked for alternatives although leaders already said there was no other option.
Regarding MSP, the government reiterated their written assurance but said that turning it into a legal right will have to be discussed due to financial implications. When farmers asked for an in-principle agreement regarding the issue, the government declined stating the issue needed to be discussed further.
Present Ministers also offered setting up a committee proposal regarding the matter, but farmers refused stating they have lost faith in committees.
When asked about the general tone of the meeting, Kuruganti said, “Meetings happen in a cordial setting but the intention to solve the issues especially relating to two main demands is missing.”
Nonetheless, as a show of respect for the meeting, Yadav announced that farmers have postponed the huge tractor march from Singhu border to Tikri border to Shahjahanpur border. Accordingly, these farmers have once again invited people living near protest points to gather with farmers to eat langar and usher in the New year.