Home Minister Amit Shah has told the agitating farmers that Government’s proposal to amend the three laws will be given to them in writing but the farmers have dug in their heels and want nothing short of repeal of the three central laws.
The top concessions from the Government include ensuring a level-playing field between the APMC zones and unregulated trade areas by bringing in a cess/tax regime, replacing the SDM oversight on dispute settlement mechanism in the new market/contract regime with judicial oversight, and guarantees with regard to MSP. The farmers said their scheduled meeting with the Government on Wednesday stands cancelled.
The Home Minister said the Government is willing to put these concessions in writing to make it a more concrete negotiation with the farmers. However, the farmers said there is nothing new in what the Home Minister offered than what the Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar and Railway Minister Piyush Goyal had already been telling them in the last few rounds of meetings.
“The hen laid no eggs,” said Hannan Mollah of the All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS) who attended the meeting. “They are repeating the same promises about APMCs. They said they will give these in writing. Let us see,” said Mollah.
Mollah said the farmers will have another set of meeting among themselves at 12 noon on Wednesday and decide on future strategy.
Krishna Prasad of the All India Kisan Sabha said: “When a round of meetings is going on with the Agriculture Minister, what is the role of the Home Minister who repeats the same offer and asks us to call off the strike. The meeting with Amit Shah was negative. What is the law and order situation that the Home Minister had to intervene and ask us to call off the strike? We are sitting peacefully. We are not going back till the laws are taken back.”
The farmers said they were not even informed properly about the venue and some of them reached the Home Minister’s residence while the meeting was actually being held in an Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) guest house at Pusa Road.
A section of the 13 leaders who decided to meet the Home Minister, especially the Bharatiya Kisan Union leader from western Uttar Pradesh Rakesh Tikait, were more amenable to the Government’s outreach. “IT has been a positive intervention. We want the laws repealed but we are talking,” said Rakesh Tikait.
Others, like Rudlu Singh Mansa, said before meeting the Home Minister, “We want a simple ‘yes’ or a ‘no’ from the Government on whether they are repealing these black laws. We are not going to be confused about anything."
Meanwhile, Opposition party leaders stayed away from the protest sites although almost all opposition parties supported the Bharat Bandh call. Opposition leaders including Sharad Pawar of the NCP and Rahul Gandhi are to meet President Ram Nath Kovind on Wednesday.
“It was a conscious decision on our part to stay away from the protest sites. The farmer groups have also told us that they want it this way. So, we have no party banners at the protest sites. However, our MPs are there as parliamentarians to show solidarity. We do not want to politicise the issue. It is not just the Left parties but all opposition that has taken this call that except our MPs, no leader will join the farmers,” said CPM General Secretary Sitaram Yechury.
A delegation of farmers and Left leaders including K. K. Ragesh, CPM MP from Rajya Sabha and joint secretary of the All India Kisan Sabha, P. Krishnaprashad, Mariam Dhavale, All India Democratic Women’s Association, Vikram Singh, Surekha of Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) and Sathvir Singh of Construction Workers Federation of India were detained at Bilaspur in Gurgaon while protesting against the farm laws and in support of the Bharat Bandh.