NEW DELHI: Negotiations with the protesting farmers received a setback on Thursday when one of the four members on the committee appointed by the Supreme Court
to engage with the unions recused himself. However, the other members would go ahead with their task and meet for the first time on January 19. Meanwhile, the both the farmers’ unions and the government would hold the ninth round of talks on Friday.
Here are the top 10 developments of the day:
1. Bhartiya Kisan Union (BKU) national president Bhupinder Singh Mann recused himself from the four-member committee appointed by the Supreme Court to resolve the deadlock between farmers and the centre over the new agri-marketing laws. Mann’s announcement came on a day when his organisation’s Punjab
unit decided to disassociate itself from him. Farmer unions and opposition parties too had raised doubts over the composition of the panel, insisting that its members have been in favour of the three laws in the past. Mann said he is thankful to the apex court for nominating him to the panel but would give up any position to prevent farmers’ interests from being compromised. “As a farmer myself and a union leader
, in view of the prevailing sentiments and apprehensions amongst the farm unions and the public in general, I am ready to sacrifice any position offered or given to me so as to not compromise the interests of Punjab and farmers of the country,” he said in a statement. “I am recusing myself from the committee and I will always stand with my farmers and Punjab,” said Mann who was also an ex-MP. The committee comprised Bhupinder Singh Mann, national president of Bhartiya Kisan Union, All India Kisan Coordination Committee; Parmod Kumar Joshi, director for South Asia, International Food Policy Research Institute; Ashok Gulati, agricultural economist and former chairman of the Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices; and Anil Ghanwat, president of Shetkari Sanghatana.
2. Protesting farmer leaders welcomed BKU president Bhupinder Singh Mann’s decision to recuse himself from a Supreme Court-appointed committee, and reiterated that they do not want any panel and will not settle for anything less than the repeal of the three contentious laws. They said the other three members of the committee should follow suit as the agitating unions had never demanded formation of any committee to resolve the impasse between farmers and the centre over the new agri laws. Some leaders also invited Mann to join the agitation against the legislation.
3. The government’s ninth round of negotiations with protesting farmer unions will take place as scheduled on Friday and the centre is hopeful of positive discussions, agriculture minister Narendra Singh Tomar said. “The government is ready to hold talks with farmers’ leaders with an open mind,” Tomar told reporters. Clearing the confusion over the fate of the ninth round of talks, which was the only outcome in the last meeting on January 8, in the wake of the Supreme Court on January 11 appointing a four-member panel to resolve the impasse and a key member of the proposed committee subsequently recusing himself, Tomar said the talks between the government and the union representatives will take place as scheduled for 12 pm on January 15.
4. BKU leader Rakesh Tikait said the protesting farmer unions will attend the scheduled ninth round of talks with the government and asserted it is necessary to continue the dialogue to resolve the deadlock and end the agitation. Tikait also said the protesting unions will attend the meeting with union ministers on Friday. Asked if unions have any hope from the Friday meeting, Tikait said: “Let’s see what happens tomorrow. But, our meetings will continue with the government till our protest ends as it is necessary… We will not oppose the meetings with the government,” the BKU leader said when asked whether the Friday talks could be the last one if there is no solution.
5. The Supreme Court-appointed panel on farm laws
is likely to hold its first meeting on January 19 at Pusa campus in the national capital, one of its members Anil Ghanwat said and asserted the committee will have no “ego or prestige issue” if it has to go to farmers’ protest sites to talk to them. The panel members were scheduled to have a virtual interaction earlier in the day to discuss its future course of action, but it could not take place after ex-MP and farmer leader Bhupinder Singh Mann recused himself from the committee. The existing members can hold their virtual interaction on Friday now, Ghanwat said, while asserting that he will not leave the committee unless asked by the apex court and he does not expect any other member to recuse.
6. “Truly independent” persons should have been appointed on the committee formed by the Supreme Court to resolve the impasse over new farm laws, NCP chief Sharad Pawar
has said. Speaking to reporters, Pawar, a former Union agriculture minister, said the agitating farmers do not have faith in the panel as these members were said to have supported the new farm laws of the centre in the past. “Hence, the farmers don’t think anything will come out of discussions with the committee. And I agree with them. It would have been better if independent – in a true sense independent – persons had been appointed,” he said.
7. Congress leader Rahul Gandhi
hit out at the centre over the contentious new farm laws, alleging that the government was “conspiring to destroy” the farmers and assured that his party will stand with them. Speaking to reporters in Madurai, the Lok Sabha MP also accused the BJP-led NDA government at the centre of trying to benefit “two or three of their friends” on the matter. “The government is not just neglecting them (farmers), the government is conspiring to destroy them. There is a difference. Neglecting is ignoring… they are not ignoring them,” he said in response to a query. “They are trying to destroy them, because they want to benefit two or three of their friends. They want to give what belongs to the farmer to two or three of their friends,” he alleged. “They want to take the land of the farmer, produce of the farmer and they want to give it to their friends,” Gandhi alleged. “You are suppressing the farmers, helping a handful of businesses,” he said. Extending his party’s support to the farmers, Gandhi said the laws will indeed be repealed.
8. The Punjab cabinet asserted that nothing short of a repeal of the centre’s three new farm laws would break the deadlock between the Union government and protesting farmers in the matter. It also said that the Congress-led Punjab government would take all measures to protect the interests of the state and farmers. “The central government is out of touch with the ground realities,” chief minister Amarinder Singh said at a meeting of the state cabinet. The council of ministers also demanded that the centre make minimum support price (MSP) a statutory right of farmers, who had been “getting extremely low prices for their produce” for the past several days despite being responsible for feeding the nation. The state cabinet also observed a two-minute silence in the memory of farmers who have died during the agitation against the farm laws. An estimated 78 farmers have so far lost their lives.
9. The Rajasthan Congress will lay siege to the Raj Bhavan in Jaipur on Friday in support of the farmers’ agitation against the centre’s new farm laws. The leaders and workers of the state unit of the party will observe Friday as ‘Kisan Adhikar Diwas’ and gherao the Raj Bhavan from 11 am to 2 pm in support of the farmers’ resentment also against the anti-farmer attitude of the Modi government, the Congress said in a statement. All India Congress Committee general secretary and Rajasthan in-charge Ajay Maken, Rajasthan Pradesh Congress Committee president Govind Singh Dotasra and chief minister Ashok Gehlot will also be present during the gherao of the Raj Bhavan, it added.
10. The Trinamool Congress
has claimed that the new agriculture laws will leave small and marginal farmers at the mercy of big corporates and demanded that the legislation should be immediately repealed. Prices of vegetables such as potatoes and onions have skyrocketed as these have been taken off the essential commodities list, the party’s Barasat MP Kakoli Ghosh Dastidar said, adding that the concept of MSP has been totally bypassed. The way the centre passed the farm laws shows that the Union government is anti-farmer and anti-people, she told reporters in Kolkata. “Farmers will now be forced to sell their produce to big corporates at prices dictated by the firms. In case of a crop failure, however, these companies are not bound to buy the produce from the agriculturists,” the MP said.