Just days ahead of the crucial seventh round of talks with the government, agitating farmers hardened their stand saying that of if no concrete decision is taken by January 4 (the next round of talks) then they will intensify their agitation and hold a massive tractor march two days later on January 6.
The farmers’ leaders also said that if talks with the government do not progress in the right direction, those protesting at the Haryana-Rajasthan border will also move towards Delhi.
The tractor march was postponed earlier as some headway was made in the previous round of talks, with the Centre agreeing to the two demands on draft electricity amendment and keeping farmers out of the purview of the pollution control ordinance.
“So far just around 5 per cent of the demands made by the farmers have been discussed in the meetings with the government so far while the bigger issues are still pending,” the agitating unions said.
“We pledge that we will continue our struggle to protect farmers, farming and villages from corporate-hands and save country’s food security and self-reliance,” the All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee (AIKSCC), one of the associations participating in the more than month long protest said in a statement.
The Committee also criticized the recent government decision to divert surplus foodgrains for making ethanol at a time when India has consistently slipped in the Hunger Index.
Thousands of farmers meanwhile, dug their heels at the protest venues outside several Delhi gateways, undeterred by the biting cold and firm in their resolve to not return home till their demands are met, as the New Year dawned with the minimum temperature dipping to 1.1 degrees Celsius.
After the sixth round of negotiations between three union ministers and a 41-member representative group of thousands of farmers protesting on Delhi borders, Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar had said at least 50 per cent resolution has been reached with mutual agreement on two out of four items on the agenda and discussions would continue on the remaining two on January 4.
Security remained tight at the national capital’s borders with hundreds of personnel deployed at Singhu, Ghazipur and Tikri border points, where the farmers have been camping for more than a month now, braving the severe Delhi winter.
The city recorded a minimum temperature of 1.1 degrees Celsius on Friday, the lowest in 15 years for the month of January.
Enacted in September, the three farm laws have been projected by the central government as major reforms in the agriculture sector that will remove the middleman and allow farmers to sell their produce anywhere in the country.
However, the protesting farmers have expressed apprehension that the new laws would pave the way for eliminating the safety cushion of MSP and do away with the mandi system, leaving them at the mercy of big corporates.
The government has repeatedly asserted that the MSP and mandi systems will stay and has accused the Opposition of misleading the farmers.
Meanwhile, more than 850 faculty members of various educational institutions across the country have come forward with a signature campaign in support of three contentious farm laws, against which thousands of farmers are protesting on borders of the national capital for over a month.
In an open letter, these individuals have said they strongly believe in the government’s assurance to farmers that their livelihood would be protected and the food would not be taken away from their plates.