A meeting of 30 protesting farmers’ groups from Punjab with the government regarding the contentious farm bills ended abruptly today over the absence of the Union minister for agriculture Narendra Singh Tomar. The Centre had called the meeting and the farmers’ groups had finally decided yesterday that they would attend.
The meeting was attended by the agriculture secretary, but the farmers demanded the presence of the minister.
Upset over his absence, the farmers started raising slogans inside the ministry and tore up copies of the contentious farm laws. They also said their agitation against the new laws will continue.
The farmers’ groups — which have been on warpath for months over the new farm bills — decided at a meeting in Chandigarh yesterday to enter discussions with the Centre. Backed by the opposition parties, including the Congress, they have been demanding that the new laws be scrapped.
The biggest of these groups, the Bharatiya Kisan Union, or BKU (Ugrahan), which did not attend yesterday’s meeting, had also decided to join forces at today’s talks.
“We weren’t satisfied with the discussions, so we walked out. We want these black laws to be scrapped. The Secretary said he will communicate our demands further,” a farmers’ union leader was quoted as saying by news agency ANI. “We walked out as no minister came for the meeting. We want these laws to be taken back,” said another leader.
Under the new laws, the farmers are allowed to sell produce anywhere in the country and deal directly with big corporates — a situation that the farmers have found alarming.
Most feel they would be left at the mercy of the corporates and with the phasing out of agricultural wholesale APMC markets, will not get even the Minimum Support Price for their produce.
The Centre, which counts the laws among is big ticket farm sector reforms, says they would free the farmers from the clutches of the middlemen and usher in new farming technology.