Centre invites farm leaders from Punjab for next round of talks on December 3
The Union government has invited representatives of over 30 farmers’ organisations from Punjab, who are protesting a set of laws enacted recently to liberalise the farm sector, for a second round of talks on December 3, an official told HT on Tuesday.
Agriculture minister Narendra Singh Tomar and railways, food and consumer affairs minister Piyush Goyal had held day-long negotiations on November 13 with leaders of several farmers’ groups in an attempt to end over two months of a politically challenging agitation.
The discussions were inconclusive, but both sides had agreed to continue negotiations in the future. A letter from Sudhangshu Pandey, secretary to the Union government, addressed to farmers’ representatives stated that minister Tomar “would like to invite them for the next round of talks on December 3, as it was agreed by both sides that discussions on various farmers’ issues will continue”.
Two days ago, farmers in Punjab agreed to allow passenger trains to run through the state for a period of 15 days. Farm organisations in the state have blockaded rail tracks and road transport as part of their protest.
Food bowl Punjab is at the centre stage of a farmers’ agitation against moves to open up agricultural markets in the country and bring sweeping reforms to the farm sector, which supports nearly half the population.
Farmers have demanded a repeal of three laws enacted by Parliament in September which, together, allow agribusinesses to freely trade farm produce without restrictions, permit private traders to stockpile large quantities of essential commodities for future sales and lay down new rules for contract farming.
Farmers say the reforms would make them vulnerable to exploitation by big corporations, erode their bargaining power and weaken the government’s minimum support price system, which offers cultivators assured prices from the government, largely for wheat and rice.
The government’s invitation to the farmers’ representatives comes ahead of a planned march to the national Capital by farmers from neighbouring states, including Punjab and Haryana, on November 26-27.
In the November 13 meet, farm leaders had demanded an outright repeal of the three laws and a roll back of the reforms; a legislation guaranteeing minimum support prices; resumption of goods train services in Punjab; pending Electricity (Amendment) Bill, 2020, be sent to a select committee; and the repeal of an air pollution ordinance for the national Capital that aims to crack down on farm stubble fires.