Govt-farmer leaders talks: Centre proposes 5-year plan to buy pulses, maize at MSP

The Union ministers and farmer leaders had met earlier on 8, 12 and 15 February but the talks remained inconclusive

After the meeting, the farmer leaders agreed to deliberate on the government's proposal over the next 2 days and then decide on their course of action (photo: IANS)
After the meeting, the farmer leaders agreed to deliberate on the government's proposal over the next 2 days and then decide on their course of action (photo: IANS)


A panel of Union ministers held a fourth round of talks with farmer leaders on Sunday, 18 February over their demands, including a legal guarantee of MSP, as thousands of protesting farmers camped at the Punjab-Haryana border.

Agriculture and Farmer Welfare Minister Arjun Munda, Minister of Commerce and Industry Piyush Goyal and Minister of State for Home Affairs Nityanand Rai reached the Mahatma Gandhi State Institute of Public Administration in Sector 26 for the talks.

Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann also joined the meeting, which began at 8.15 pm on Sunday and ended at around 1 am on Monday, 19 February.

Talking to reporters after the meeting, Goyal said the panel has proposed the buying of pulses, maize, and cotton crops by government agencies at minimum support prices for five years after entering into an agreement with farmers.

The farmer leaders said they will discuss the government's proposal in their forums over the next two days and thereafter, decide the future course of action.

"Cooperative societies like the NCCF (National Cooperative Consumers Federation) and NAFED (National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation of India) will enter into a contract with those farmers who grow 'tur dal', 'urad dal', 'masoor dal’ or maize for buying their crop at MSP for next five years," said Goyal.

“There will be no limit on the quantity (purchased) and a portal will be developed for this," he added.

It will save Punjab's farming, improve the groundwater table, and save the land from getting barren which is already under stress, Goyal said.

On the Centre's proposal, farmer leader Sarwan Singh Pandher said, "We will discuss in our forums on February 19-20 and take the opinion of experts regarding it and accordingly take a decision."

A discussion on loan waivers and other demands is pending and we hope that these will be resolved in the next two days, Pandher said, adding that the ‘Delhi Chalo’ march is currently on hold, but will resume at 11 am on February 21 if all the issues are not resolved.

The Union ministers and farmer leaders had met earlier on February 8, 12 and 15 but the talks remained inconclusive.

Protesting farmers from Punjab have been camping at Shambhu and Khanauri points on the state's border with Haryana since February 13 when their 'Delhi Chalo' march was halted by police.

The call for the march was given by the Samyukta Kisan Morcha (Non-Political) and the Kisan Mazdoor Morcha to press their demands.

Besides a legal guarantee of MSP, the farmers are demanding the implementation of the Swaminathan Commission's recommendations, pension for farmers and farm labourers, farm debt waiver, no hike in electricity tariff, withdrawal of police cases and "justice" for the victims of the 2021 Lakhimpur Kheri violence, reinstatement of the Land Acquisition Act, 2013, and compensation to the families of the farmers who died during a previous agitation in 2020-21.

Ahead of the fourth round of talks, the SKM announced that it will gherao the residences of BJP leaders in Punjab for three days from Tuesday to press the Centre into accepting their demands.

Balbir Singh Rajewal, a leader of the SKM, an umbrella body of various farmer unions, said they will stage protests in front of the residences of Punjab BJP leaders, including MPs, MLAs and district presidents, from Tuesday to Thursday.

Interacting with reporters after a meeting of SKM leaders in Ludhiana, Rajewal said it has also been decided that they would protest at all toll barriers in the state and make them free for all commuters from February 20 to 22.

The SKM will not accept anything less than the C-2 plus 50 per cent formula for MSP as recommended in the Swaminathan Commission report, he said after the meeting which was also attended by farmer leaders Balkaran Singh Brar and Boota Singh, among others.

Earlier, farmer leader Jagjit Singh Dallewal said the central government should not dilly-dally and accept farmers' demands before the Model Code of Conduct for the Lok Sabha elections comes into force.

If the government thinks it will continue to hold meetings till the Model Code of Conduct is imposed and then say it cannot do anything as the code is in force... the farmers are not going to return, he said.

"The government should find a solution to our demands before the Model Code of Conduct comes into force," he added.

In Haryana's Kurukshetra, Bharatiya Kisan Union (Charuni) chief Gurnam Singh Charuni and some 'khaps' took part in a panchayat to chalk out a course of action to support the protesting farmers from Punjab.

Charuni told reporters after the meeting that it was decided to unite all farmer organisations to hold a protest in support of the agitation.

Charuni said a good chunk of the rural belt is part of the National Capital Region (NCR) and a four-member committee has been formed to connect with farmers from Delhi.

He said it is surprising that the government is not allowing the farmers to travel to Delhi on their tractors.

Khap leader O P Dhankar said Haryana 'khaps' are behind the agitation and the central government should not delay giving a legal guarantee of MSP.

Another 'khap' leader who attended the panchayat said farmers will reach Delhi and protest if the talks fail.

Meanwhile, the suspension of internet services has been extended in certain areas in some Punjab districts, including Patiala, Sangrur and Fatehgarh Sahib, till February 24 on the orders of the Union Ministry of Home Affairs.

Earlier, internet services were suspended from February 12 to 16 in view of the farmers' march.

The Bharti Kisan Union (Ekta Ugrahan) continued to hold protests at toll plazas in Punjab for the second consecutive day, forcing authorities not to charge toll tax.

At the Ladhowal plaza in Ludhiana, farmers shouted slogans against the Centre and the Haryana government.

The Haryana government on Saturday extended the ban on mobile internet and bulk SMS services in seven districts till February 19.

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Published: 19 Feb 2024, 8:25 AM