The government on Thursday extended a fresh invite to protesting farmer unions for talks, but made it clear that it would not be “logical” to include in the agenda any new demand related to minimum support price (MSP), saying it was out of the purview of three new farm laws.
In a three-page letter written to 40 farmer leaders, Agriculture Ministry Joint Secretary Vivek Aggarwal said, “I again request you that the government has been discussing all issues with an open heart and good intention to end the protest, and will continue to do so. Kindly suggest a date and time (for the next round of talks).”
Previous five rounds of talks between the government and the unions have failed to break the deadlock with the farmers insisting on the repeal of the three laws and camping at various border points of Delhi for nearly a month now.
Aggarwal asked the union leaders to provide details of other issues they want to discuss. The talks will be held at Vigyan Bhawan in New Delhi at a ministerial level, he said.
On MSP, Aggarwal said the farm laws have no connection with the price regime nor would have any impact on the procurement of farm produce at the fixed rates.
This has been told to the unions in every discussion and it has also been made clear that the government is ready to give written assurance on MSP, he said.
“Any new demand related to MSP, which is out of the ambit of farm laws, is not logical to include in the talks. As informed earlier, the government is ready to discuss all the issues raised by farmer unions,” he noted.
Aggarwal’s letter has come in response to the Samyukt Kisan Morcha’s December 23 letter, through which it had informed the government that the farmer unions are ready for talks but asked it to send a “concrete proposal in writing instead repeating rejected proposals around meaningless amendments.”
In its new letter, the government reiterated that it is ready to find a “logical solution” to the issues raised by protesting farmer unions.
Aggarwal said it is important to keep all doors open for discussion for the government. It is the responsibility of the government to listen to farmer organisations and farmers and the government cannot deny this.
The government with an open heart has held several rounds of discussion with farmer unions under the Samyukt Kisan Morcha and urged them to choose a date as per their convenience for the next round of talks, he added.
Thousands of farmers from Punjab, Haryana, UP and some other states are protesting against the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, Farmers Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act.
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 middlemen and allow farmers to sell 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 Minimum Support Price and do away with the mandi system, leaving them at the mercy of big corporates.
In his letter, Aggarwal reiterated that the government is “eager to resolve logically” all issues raised by the protesting farmer unions. The government in its December 20 letter had clearly mentioned that it was ready to discuss all issues raised verbally and in written form by farmer unions.
He also thanked unions for giving clarity that Dashan Pal, State President of Krantikari Kisan Union Punjab, had written a letter on behalf of all protesting farmers unions in response to the government’s December 20 letter.
“In all communications, representatives of farmer unions had informed the government to send invites and letters separately to each organisation. You have made it clear that Dashan Pal’s letter was written on behalf of all farmer unions. Thank you for this clarity,” he said.
“In your letter, you have pointed out the government has not sent a proposal in relation to the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act. In the previous letter, it was made clear that a written proposal would be given on the issues which were discussed on December 3. Still, in its December 20 letter, the government said it was ready to discuss if any other issues the farmer unions would want,” he added.
With regard to the Electricity Amendment bill and laws related to stubble burning, the government said it is ready to discuss if farmers’ unions have other issues apart from the draft proposal given based on the December 3 discussion.