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What happened when Amit Shah met farmers' leaders

By PRASANNA D ZORE
Last updated on: December 09, 2020 09:32 IST
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'Now that the home minister met us to discuss our demands a hope has definitely been kindled that farmers's demands will be met by this government.'

IMAGE: Representatives of various farmer unions arrive for a meeting with the government over the Centre's new farm laws at Vigyan Bhavan in New Delhi, December 5, 2020. Photograph: Kamal Singh/PTI Photo

Union Home Minister Amit Anilchandra Shah sprung up a surprise on the agitating farmers by scheduling a meeting between him and 13 leaders representing various farmers organisations to discuss their demands, the top-most among them been the complete repeal of the three farm laws that the farmers have dubbed 'Black Acts'.

While the meeting between Shah and the 13 farmers leaders lasted for almost 120 minutes on the evening of December 8 in a cordial atmosphere at the international guest house at the Indian Council of Agricultural Research in New Delhi, it failed to resolve the deadlock between the two sides with both sides remaining firm on their respective decisions.

Prasanna D Zore/Rediff.com spoke with Rakesh Tikait, who was one of the 13 farmers's representatives who met Shah, and Abhimanyu Kohar of the Rashtriya Kisan Mahasangh to find out what exactly transpired during the meeting.

The home minister, who keenly listened to the farmers's demands, assured the 13 farmers's leaders that the government will articulate its stand in a written proposal on the amendments that it wishes to carry out in the three farm laws that could perhaps end the logjam between the two negotiating parties.

While Kohar expects the government's proposals to be sent to these leaders in the course of the day today, Tikait was hopeful that they will get the government's written draft about the proposed amendments by noon today.


Abhimanyu Kohar, national spokesperson, Rashtriya Kisan Mahasangh

'Our leaders told Amit Shah that the three farm bills were detrimental to farmers's interests'

The government will give a written statement articulating its stand on all the demands raised by various farmers's leaders. We will discuss the further course of action after we get this written response from the government.

This is not about any trust deficit between the government and our leaders. All official responses are conveyed only in writing. Only does such responses become official and carry weight.

The government may send their response to our official e-mail IDs or send their response by other modes of communication available to the government.

In the meeting between our leaders and Amit Shah, we were categorical about our demand for repeal of all the three farm laws as were passed by Parliament.

Even as we were categorical about demands, the home minister's focus was on discussing amendments to the three farm laws.

In all the five-six discussions between Cabinet ministers and our leaders, we had clearly articulated the problems with the three farm laws and how they were detrimental to the interests of farmers.

We also discussed a law that would ensure MSP guarantee, repeal of all the three farm Acts, scrapping of the proposed Electricity Bill 2020 and immediate stop to exploitation of farmers by the government machinery on the issue of stubble burning by farmers.

The home minister has assured us that the government will send their written response to all our demands following which they asked for another meeting the day after tomorrow to discuss the government's response.

Our leaders strictly told that a meeting was possible day after tomorrow only after the government sends a written response and after it is discussed by the farmer leaders representing various section of the farming community.

However, the meeting scheduled for December 11 will be conditional upon the government's written response.

In the meeting held on December 5, Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar and Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal said they were ready for negotiations on the possible amendments, on the APMC issue, on the civil court issue, on some clauses related to contract farming.

We had maintained that the three farm laws were dangerous for the farmers and hence must be completely repealed.

A report published yesterday painted a very grim picture of the APMC mandis in Madhya Pradesh in the six months after these three farm laws were enacted.

Out of the 267 krishi mandis, some of them exceptionally outstanding, 47 were completely closed and normal trade in another 143 krishi mandis had reduced by 50-60 per cent.

In Madhya Pradesh, the major procurement of wheat, paddy and chana happened at MSP.

These three laws that gave statutory backing to opening of private mandis and these have benefitted immensely at the cost of krishi mandis. All the 50-60 per cent drop in trade at krishi mandis has gone to these private mandis.

Who has been blocking the Delhi-Agra Mumbai highway these past few days? Thousands of farners from Madhya Pradesh have done that.

The meeting lasted for about two hours and 13 farmer leaders representing various farmers organisations participated in the discussions with thehome minister.

Nine from Punjab, and four were from other states. Hanan Molla from West Bengal, Rakesh Tikait from Uttar Pradesh, Shiv Kumar Kakkaji from Madhya Pradesh, Gurnam Singn Chadhauni from Haryana; major farmer leaders from Punjab were Jagjit Singh Dallewal, Balbir Singh Rajowal, Manjit Singh Rai, Haruldu Singh Mansa.

We cannot say anything in this matter right now; let's see the government's written proposal of the government today and then we will discuss further.

No assurance has been given about the time; such things don't move as per a fixed time schedule.


Rakesh Tikait, national spokesperson, Bharatiya Kisan Union

'Meeting happened in a cordial atmosphere'

The home minister has assured the leaders of our core committee that the government will reveal its stand on farmers's demand by noon today and offer a written proposal about it. All of us were unanimous in our decision that government give its proposal in writing.

The home minister appreciated that the agitation has been largely peaceful and expressed hope that it will continue in the same peaceful manner.

The government, he said, was also willing to talk to the farmers and come out with a solution. We will offer you a solid draft and you can discuss the same among yourself and then we can carry forward our discussions.

We were firm on our stand that government repeal the farm laws, bring in an MSP Guarantee law, and we hope that the government will accept our demand. Let us see what the government proposes tomorrow.

There are many more vexatious issues to deal with like stubble burning by farmers, Electricity Bill, 2020, about tractors that are older than ten years. We have discussed all these issues threadbare with the home minister. Let us wait for their proposal now.

The home minister seemed keen on resolving all the issues of the farmers and we can expect something positive will come out of this meeting with one of the biggest ministers of the Narendra Modi Cabinet. We are hopeful of a peaceful solution through discussions.

While some of the leaders were happy about the outcome of the meeting with the home minister, a few were not that hopeful. But we have unanimously decided to agree to the government sending us a written proposal of their stand on our demands.

The names of all the thirteen leaders who would meet the Union home minister were decided by the core committee of the various farmers's organisations.

Now that the home minister met us to discuss our demands a hope has definitely been kindled that farmers's demands will be met by this government and now that they have agreed to offer us their proposal we are all hopeful of reaching at a solution soon.

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PRASANNA D ZORE / Rediff.com
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