The Punjab chief minister and the Congress party have been supporting the farmers' stir. | Photo: PTI
The fourth round of talks between protesting farmers and the Centre
on the three agriculture Acts seemed to make some headway, with the government willing to consider some of their objections to the legislation.
Their demands include a having level playing field in taxes between proposed private mandis under the new Acts and the existing agriculture produce marketing committees (APMCs), and traders’ mandatory registration even if they trade outside those.
Sources said a breakthrough in the key demand of the farmers’ union for an assurance on continuing minimum support prices (MSPs) in procurement was also in the works.
In their present form, the agriculture trade Act says that no state or Centre
can levy any sort of tax or levy on any trade done outside APMCs
(an area which has been designated as trade areas).
In the trade area, any person with just a PAN Card can purchase any sort of agriculture produce directly from farmers.
A provision in the trade Act as well as the law on contract farming could be modified, sources said.
The farmers are opposing the contract farming law because it says all disputes between traders and farmers have to be settled at the level of the sub-divisional magistrate (SDM) and can’t be referred to a court of law.
Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar, who along with Food Minister Piyush Goyal and Minister of State for Commerce Som Prakash represented the Central government in the deliberations, said that the meeting was held was in a cordial atmosphere and all issues were discussed at length.
He said the Centre
was willing to consider their other two major demands — doing away with the penal provision for stubble burning
and also amendments to the draft Electricity Act, which could lead to stopping electricity subsidies for farmers. The farmers’ leaders, meanwhile, decided to consult other stakeholders and come back to the government with an assurance in the next meeting, which is on December 5.
A press conference by the leaders on Friday will further clear their stand. A section of farmers though remained firm on their stand that nothing short of repeal of the Acts would suffice them.
Earlier, in the day, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh met Union Home Minister Amit Shah
and appealed to him to find an early resolution to the impasse, saying the agitation was affecting Punjab's economy and the nation’s security. Singh after the meeting, Shah at his residence said common ground must be found soon and the two sides should not take rigid positions on the matter.
Singh and the Congress are supporting the farmers’ stir and the Assembly also passed a set of Bills aimed at negating the Centre’s farm legislation.
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Thursday threatened to launch a countrywide agitation if the “anti-farmer” laws were not withdrawn.
Akali Dal stalwart Parkash Singh Badal has returned his Padma Vibhushan in protest against the farm laws.
Delhi had another day of traffic snarls and border blockades as farmers from different parts of the country converged in the city.
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