Sunday, April 14, 2024

Farmers Reject Centre’s Proposal, To Continue Delhi March From Wednesday

Farmers Reject Centre's Proposal, To Continue Delhi March From Wednesday

The government and farmers had held the fourth round of talks on Sunday night.

Chandigarh:

The borders around Delhi are likely to witness a showdown again from Wednesday as protesting farmers have rejected the government’s proposal of a five-year contract to buy maize, cotton and three types of pulses at the old minimum support price. 

The announcement by the protesting farmers came hours after the Samyukt Kisan Morcha, an umbrella organisation of farmer unions which is not part of the current protests, also criticised the MSP proposal. 

Addressing a press conference at the Shambhu border, between Punjab and Haryana, on Monday, farmer leader Sarwan Singh Pandher declared that the proposal is not acceptable to them and the protesting farmers will resume their march towards Delhi in a peaceful manner from Wednesday. 

Laying out the reasons for rejecting the proposal, farmer leader Jagjit Singh Dallewal said in Hindi, “The government made the proposal (on Sunday night) and we have studied it. It doesn’t make sense for the MSP to apply to only two or three crops and for the other farmers to be left to fend for themselves.”

“The honourable minister said yesterday that if the government guarantees MSP on daals (split pulses), it will put an additional burden of Rs 1.5 lakh crore. A study by (former Agricultural Price Commission chairman) Prakash Kammardi has, however, revealed that the total cost will be Rs 1.75 lakh crore for all crops,” he added.

Pointing out that the government spends Rs 1.75 lakh crore to import palm oil into the country, which he claimed is harmful to the health of the people, Mr Dallewal said the same amount could be spent on helping farmers grow oilseeds, for which MSP could be declared. 

Mr Dallewal claimed that the government is planning to give the support price only to farmers that opt for crop diversification and move towards growing those that will be under the MSP umbrella. This, he claimed, would not apply to the farmers who are already growing the crops.

“This will not help farmers. We have demanded MSP on 23 crops. The amount that is given is a ‘minimum’ support price, that helps with subsistence, not income. If they are not agreeing to a legal guarantee, it means that the farmers will continue to suffer. We have, thus, decided to reject the proposal,” he said.

What Was Proposed

Speaking after the meeting on Sunday, Food and Public Distribution Minister Piyush Goyal had said government agencies would sign a contract with the farmers for the next five years for the procurement of pulses, maize, and cotton crops and there would be no limit on the buying quantity.

Agriculture Minister Arjun Munda and Minister of State for Home, Nityanand Rai, were also part of the fourth meeting between the government and the farmers, which was joined by Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann.

The demand for a law on MSP, which is meant to protect farmers from the vagaries of the market, is the core issue for the protesting farmers. They are also demanding a loan waiver, the implementation of the Swaminathan Commission’s recommendations, pension for farmers and farm labourers, withdrawal of police cases filed against them during the earlier protest and justice for farmers killed in Uttar Pradesh’s Lakhimpur Kheri.

Chaos Rerun?

Nearly 1 lakh farmers, backed by about 200 unions, had started their march on Delhi on February 13. Tear gas was fired and water cannons were used against the protesters, who had gathered at the Shambhu border, and smoke canisters were also dropped from drones. Videos had showed farmers jumping across concrete barriers erected to prevent their passage and shoving barricades aside.

Traffic had been completely disrupted at key entry points in Delhi as police prepared for protesters trying to enter the national capital undetected in cars or other vehicles.

The farmers, who had been stopped at the Shambhu border, had said they wouldn’t push forward until a meeting between the Centre and their representatives on February 15, but had complained that tear gas shells were still being used against them. No major confrontation has been reported since then.

Apart from the march by the main group, further trouble could be on the way for residents in Delhi-NCR as farmer groups in Noida and Greater Noida also announced on Monday that they will march to the capital on Friday to press their demands. These groups are protesting for developed plots and increased compensation for their land acquired in the past.

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