Farmers protest at the Delhi-UP border in Ghazipur Monday | Suraj Singh Bisht | ThePrint
Farmers protest at the Delhi-UP border in Ghazipur Monday | Suraj Singh Bisht | ThePrint
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New Delhi: The Modi government is willing to engage in an unconditional discussion with the protesting farmers but isn’t ready to withdraw its three controversial farm laws as of now, ThePrint has learnt. However, the BJP has said the government will be ready to make changes to the laws if a need is felt following talks with the protesters. 

Thus, the first priority now is to get the farmers to talk, sources in the government and the party said, adding that the farmers should also show some flexibility and “engage in a meaningful dialogue”. 

The Modi government has already sent feelers to farmers organisations, indicating that they are willing to hold talks even before the scheduled 3 December meeting. Union Home Minister Amit Shah has been monitoring the entire situation and has held two meetings with Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar and other leaders in this regard.

While a meeting was held at party president J.P. Nadda’s residence Sunday night, following farmers’ rejection of the government’s offer to shift their protest to Burari, Tomar and Shah met again Monday morning to take stock of the situation.

Speaking to ThePrint, a source in the government said while there is a very bleak chance of the administration amending the law, it will likely constitute a committee to address farmers’ concerns when talks happen. “But everything depends on the talks. They need to first agree to that,” he added. 

The BJP, the leading party in the ruling coalition, seems to be following a two-pronged strategy to deal with the protests, which have been continuing since the laws were passed in September. 

On the one hand, the leaders are concerned about the farmers protesting through winter nights and want to convince them that the government cares about their welfare. On the other, they are making it a point to highlight their belief that the farmers are being misled by their political opponents. 

The approach was apparent in PM Narendra Modi’s address at Varanasi Monday, where he lashed out at the opposition for allegedly confusing the farmers while reiterating his government’s commitment to their welfare.


Also Read: Shambles over farmers’ protest shows Modi-Shah BJP needs a Punjab tutorial


Modi slams opposition

The three farm laws have been pitched by the Modi government as long-due reforms meant to empower farmers. However, they have landed in a row over concerns about the absence of a provision for MSP — the minimum support price set by the government for produce — in the laws. 

There have also been concerns that the laws will open the doors to corporatisation of the farm sector, a charge denied by the government. 

The protests against the laws started in Punjab this September but spilled over to the capital this month as the protesters started their ‘Dilli Chalo’ rally.

There have been some rounds of discussions between the government and farmer leaders over the past few weeks, but a resolution has been elusive. As the Dilli Chalo protest hit the headlines — with visuals of farmers being attacked with water cannons and teargas shells by security forces — Tomar invited farmer leaders for talks with the government on 3 December.

The protesters marching on Delhi wanted to hold a demonstration at Ramlila Maidan or the Jantar Mantar. But in the absence of permission to move to these locations — they have only been allowed to protest in Burari — the farmers remain gathered at Delhi’s borders with Haryana and Uttar Pradesh.

As he made an address in Varanasi, Modi made an appeal to the farmers but also attacked political parties for creating confusion and outlined the work done by the government for the welfare of the farmers. 

Modi slammed the opposition for “using tricks to oppose historic agriculture reforms laws”, adding that farmers are being misled”. 

“Earlier, decisions of the government were opposed, now rumours have become the basis for protest and opposition. Propaganda is spread that although a decision is fine, it can lead to other consequences, about things that haven’t happened or will never happen,” he said.

“The same game is being played in the case of historical agricultural reforms. These are the same people who have consistently tricked the farmers for decades.”

Aiming to allay the fears of the farmers, Modi said decades of deceit make farmers apprehensive but now there is no deceit as work is being carried out with “intentions as pure as Gangajal”. If there is any apprehension against the new farm laws, the government is willing to respond, he said.


Also Read: English-speaking protester in viral farmer protest video is Punjabi actor Deep Sidhu 


‘Open to discussions’

BJP national spokesperson Gopal Krishna Agarwal told ThePrint that the “government is open to holding discussions and talks with the farmers groups”. 

“We are even willing to sit and listen to their grievances if they have any as far as these three laws are concerned. If there is a need, we will make necessary changes within it. At the same time, it is important to note that some political parties and anti-social elements are trying to capture this protest for their own benefits,” he said.

“They are misleading the farmers. Reforms are necessary for the farmers and the economy and the government is going to take all steps to ensure that.” 

Dushyant Gautam, BJP general secretary and in-charge of Punjab, echoed the concerns raised by Agarwal, adding that political parties like the Congress and the Akali Dal are “trying to gain political dividend out of these protests”.

While the Congress is in office in Punjab, the Akali Dal is a former BJP ally that broke ranks with the party earlier this year in protest against the laws. 

“All the three bills are pro-farmers. If they have any grievances we are ready to talk. The home minister himself is addressing their concern which shows you the seriousness of our resolve,” he said. 

Last week, BJP IT cell head Amit Malviya had also alleged a Khalistan angle to the protests, but it is a narrative that has been questioned within the party too. 

Meanwhile, the BJP is planning to organise ‘Kisan Chaupals (farmer meetings)’ across the country to make “farmers aware of the provisions of the three farm laws to ensure similar protests don’t erupt in other states”. 

“We are open to hold discussions with the farmers and our government has already made it crystal clear,” said Rajkumar Chahar, president of the BJP Kisan Morcha. 

“Our government has carried out these reforms for the benefit of the farmers. At the same time, nothing has been taken away from the existing laws such as the MSP. It is still there, but now the farmers have the option of selling it in mandis or the open market,” he added, referring to a key reform that frees farmers from the obligation to sell their produce at mandis.

“A number of political parties are trying to mislead the farmers, which is why we have decided to reach out to villages across the country and make the farmers aware of the reality. We will be be coming out with pamphlets and booklets and organise ‘Kisan Chaupal’ to have a direct dialogue with the farmers,” he added 

A BJP leader who didn’t wish to be named said the government as well as the BJP are mindful of not adopting the same strategy they did during the protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act. 

“At that time, no one had realised it would snowball into something big. For quite some time, the party had taken it lightly. But it became a major protest. Hence, this time, we are monitoring the situation closely and ensuring that farmers are aware of the benefits of these laws,” said the leader. 

“We are concerned they are protesting in harsh winter nights. We want to resolve the issue,” the leader added.

On Saturday, Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh had offered to negotiate between the farmers and the Modi government to find an amicable solution to the imbroglio.

Urging the protesting farmers to reciprocate Shah’s gesture by accepting his appeal to shift to a designated protest site, he said it will pave the way for early talks to resolve their issues.

Noting that the purpose of their protest was not to block highways and inconvenience people but to pressure the central government to listen to their voice, the Chief Minister said the farmers had “already won half the battle by bringing the Union government to the negotiating table without further delay”. 

In the circumstances, the farmers should grab the Union Home Minister’s offer and make the most of the opportunity to resolve the crisis triggered by the central laws, he added.

He said Shah’s offer to hold discussions with farmers at the earliest was in the best interest of the farming community and the nation at large. 


Also Read: Farmers’ protest a big challenge for Modi. Bigger than demonetisation, GST


 

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13 COMMENTS

  1. This is an INDIRECT ATTACK by the Opposition parties against the central Govt. through Farmers.
    Educated among the Farming Community should explain about the Three Bills and their Implications to the Farmers.

    Those Farmers who enter into Contracts with the Corporates should ensure for themselves that the Price Fixed for the Produce does not fall below the MSP which would be ensured to all the sale made through Marketting Committees as has been assured by the Govt.

    As far as known, Farmers did not protest for doing away with the subsidies for Agriculture loans last year, which is worth fighting. But, for that they did not Protest. Not known why.
    Is it because the Opposition Parties are not Aware of this?

    Comments are awaited.

  2. Watch the video, Cut the Clutter, episode 633 in youtube. Will be helpful, and show the hypocrisy.
    Good day
    Jai Hind

  3. You need to pay attention to the youtube video launched by your channel itself, by Shekhar Gupta, Cut the Clutter, episode no. 633. Would be helpful in clearing your mind, as any other channel or media may seem unbiased to you.
    Good day
    Jai Hind

  4. Farmers have genuine concerns. By claiming the people are misguiding farmer, we are undermining their intelligence. Let’s look at the law one by one to make an assessment.
    The first one says that farmer can sell their produce anywhere. It will give access to open market. To understand it’s impact better first we need to understand and purpose and importance of APMC. APMC managed by government and at present Government has 23 items under MSP but make purchase only wheat and rice through these APMC centers. FCI procured less than one-third of farmer produce in the last 16 years. The remaining 2/3rd is anyway sold in open market where farmers are exploited. In Punjab APMC are easily accessible so farmers can sell easily. In some of the places the APMC’s are so far away that for a small farmer it doesn’t make economic sense to transport. We are anyway in open market as far as crops other than wheat and rice is concerned. For wheat and rice around 2/3rd of it is sold in open market.

    The second one is about storage. Rabi and kharif crops are seasonal crops. There will be glut when the season harvest approaches. The private player will have too many options to demand lower price. The corporates will only make purchase when it is cheap. Now with additional authority to hoard and store, they will have very high control on when to purchase. Farmers especially the small one will not have any way to store these for long. They also need money to harvest for the next season. This will further increase the exploitation.

    The third one is about contract farming. These most likely will be done through intermediaries. The corporates will have contract with these intermediaries which in turn will make contract with farmers. The corporates will have clause with intermediaries in their favour. They can cancel the contract anytime. These intermediaries will go out of business anytime. The poor farmer will struggle to sell his produce. He will have little chance and stamina to recover any money from these intermediaries.

    The problem is we are thinking it purely from economic point of view. We are looking at supply and demand curve. Food like air and water are essential for life. We have to be extremely prudent with our policies around these. To give an extreme analogy from economic angle, we can say let’s allow pollution to increase if it make economic sense. It will automatically reach steady state when the cost incurred in maintaining health will match the economic advantage.

    • Hmm. I agree with you on principle that some concerns need to be allayed. That doesn’t mean that these laws are bad and must be repealed. Let’s take the three points you raised.

      For the first one, think of it for a moment, if indeed 2/3 of harvest is sold outside the mandi’s anyways, then what will th e APMC reforms act change? Why the opposition to it? I’m fact you are confusing grains brought by private players with grains sold outside mandi’s. Now I’m all parts of the country, grains can still be bought by private buyers but in mandi’s where the whole sale is rigged and middlemen take most of the cut, I have seen this with my own eyes!

      For the second one, most agricultural products suffer from the same issue. Milk is a particular example. How is that solved? Through storage, milk is stored as milk powder when there is a glut and released when there is a shortage through which prices can be maintained. The hope is the private players would invest in storage now that storage restrictions on essential commodities act is removed and this would solve the problem of agricultural crisis at harvest.

      For the third one, contract farming is already done in poultry, fisheries, etc. The farmers doing that seem to be doing very good, so why do you think the farmer who tills the field is incapable of handling contracts while their herding counterparts are successful?

      To restate my position that there are some vulnerabilities that farmers might have in a free market, the answer to that is not shut down all free trade, but to have good regulation and redressed mechanisms. so the three laws must stay! Take my suggestions with a pinch of salt since I am not an expert at this but, something like a TRAI which regulates farm produce might be good with special tribunal which provide legal remedy in a timely and unbiased manner.

  5. Excerpts from a report of the Working Group on consumer Affair, headed by the Gurajrat Chief minister Narendra Modi in 2011.

     Advance declaration of MSP: Until markets become sufficiently competitive, there is a case for intervention by the government. In order to achieve self sufficiency in food production, Government ofIndia may continue the policy of declaring minimum support price (MSP) of various  crops well before the start of sowing season. Further, MSP could be linked to inflation and farmers can get some idea as to how much revision would occur in the MSP. Moreover, MSP so announced should be reviewed where necessary. This will help in encouraging farmers to produce crops such as oilseeds and pulses where India has become a net importer.

     Enforce MSP: Since intermediaries play a vital role in the functioning of the market and at times they have advance contract with farmers. In respect of all essential commodities, we should protect farmer’s interests by mandating through statutory provisions that no farmer – trader transaction should be below MSP, wherever prescribed.  
    Please note:
    “we should protect farmer’s interests by mandating through statutory provisions that no farmer – trader transaction should be below MSP, wherever prescribed. “

  6. I think that the main problem is the trust deficit that the farmers have in the central government.
    Even in the case of the CAA, there was no problem with the Act itself. People were worried about its linkage with the proposed National Register of Citizens and the process of getting one’s name included in the NRC. With almost a million of residents of Assam, left out of the list, people were worried. That in probability lead to the confusion, rumors and agitation. Statements made by senior leaders of the Govt also did not help the situation.
    The Central government should have learnt their lessons from that fiasco.
    Government had enough time to discuss the provisions of the amended Acts related to the farmers with all the stake holders, before it was pushed through the Parliament. The Bills in their draft stage could have been placed in the public domain and feedback sought. Ground level meetings could have been held to address the misgivings. The method of “Shock and Awe” does not work every time.
    Personally, other than the ambiguity about MSP, I am of the opinion that the new laws will prove beneficial to the farmers in the long run.
    Farmers and the traders have a very long standing relationship. As was reported in the case of apple growers from the Kashmir valley, wholesale fruit traders give advance payment to the farmers for their produce. This kind of relationship is difficult to break.
    “Management of Change” is the most difficult challenge faced by any leader or manager. The political leadership and their babus should have understood this.
    I sincerely hope that the concerned parties climb down from their declared positions and reach a nationally beneficial understanding.

    • Kudos to you, Mr. VK Narayanan, for such a balanced comment. I would like to compliment Modi for effecting changes which most Governments have shied away from.

  7. It appears that the “protesters” are middle-men who stand to lose the most, muscle-men & hired thugs of the Congress.
    No sensible “farmer” would protest against laws meant for his/her benefit.

  8. The government can form a committee to see if their concerns are genuine or not, without hurting the prospects of non Punjab states.

  9. There is no doubt that the centre govt intentions to usher in these long overdue reforms are for the Kisaans betterment. Still Punjab farmers have serious apprehensions about their end outcome in the long run.
    View farmers March to Delhi lock, stock and barrel the Govt has showed it’s seriousness to resolve the issue by inviting farmers to the
    table even before the 3rd Dec. Good to learn the Amrinder Singh’s appeal to Kisaans to grab the HM offer without further delay. SAD and AAP too should make their positive contribution by avoiding petty politics so that Kisaans sit with govt to have their grievances sorted out then return home.
    This is surely in the best interest of kisaans and the country!
    Jai Kisaan, Jai India !

  10. PRIME MINISTER HAS MIS READ THE FARMERS TOTALLY.HIS AUTHOTARIAN COMMAND ….DICTATORIAL ATTITUDE MAY COST HIM HEAVILY. BJP HAS IGNITED THE FIRE AND THAT WILL BLOWN BADLY NOW !!

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