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Farmers Ready For Talks But Without Conditions, Says Farmer’s Union Leader

Indian Union Agriculture Minister appealed to farmer unions to end their protest against the farm laws.

GHAZIABAD, India — Farmers are ready to talk with the government on the farm laws, but the discussions should be held without conditions, said Rakesh Tikat, leader of Bharatiya Kisan Union, farmer’s representative organization in India.

Farmers have been protesting at the different borders of the national capital since Nov. 26, 2020, against the three newly enacted farm laws, Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020; the Farmers Empowerment and Protection Agreement on Price Assurance and farm Services Act 2020 and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020.

Tikait gave the statement after the remarks made by Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar indicated that the government is ready to hold talks with the protesting farmers to discuss other options.

“They are imposing conditions that we should go to them for talks,” said Tikait. “They say that they can amend the laws but will not scrap them. Farmers have not been protesting for eight months so that they can follow the government’s orders. If the government wants to talk, they can talk, but no conditions should be imposed.” 

“They have not engaged in talks for six months. Whenever the government wants to talk, we are ready. We have not received any official letter (for talks). The Andolan will continue till the government wants. The government can do it by talks or by force, but our Andolan will not end like this.”

Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar appealed to farmer unions to end their protest against the three farm laws and come forward for discussions. 

The minister said that the Centre will not repeal the agricultural laws and that the government is ready to hold talks with the farmers to discuss other options.

The union minister further said that efforts would be made to provide more resources to the Agricultural Produce Market Committees (APMC).

“‘Agricultural Produce Market Committees’ will not be done away with,” said Tomar. “The Center had declared in the Budget that the Agricultural Produce Market Committees would be part of the INR 1 lakh crore ($13.4 billion) infrastructure fund. Agricultural Produce Market Committees can benefit from the fund through loans, interest waivers.”

Commenting on the Central government’s decision to allow Agricultural Produce Market Committees’ to use INR 1 trillion ($13.4 billion) agriculture infrastructure fund, the Bharatiya Kishan Union leader said that Agricultural Produce Market Committees’ is on the verge of shutting down as purchases are being made outside them. 

“They should tell us the system through which mandis [wholesale market] will be saved,” said Tomar. “If products are purchased outside Mandis, then they will be finished. There are around 40 mandis of Madhya Pradesh, and almost zero percent of produce was purchased there. These mandis are on the verge of shutting down.” 

“Mandis in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar are facing similar problems. What is this formula that Agricultural Produce Market Committees will continue to run despite no sales? When a purchase takes place outside mandis, then these mandis will be finished. We are not happy with this. Where will this INR 1 trillion ($13.4 billion) go? They will purchase outside mandis.”

He claimed that the farmers would not be benefited unless a law is passed on the purchase of produce at Minimum Support Price (MSP). 

(With inputs from ANI)

(Edited by Amrita Das and Saptak Datta)

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