The move came hours after the unions protesting on Delhi’s borders against three central agri-marketing laws observed ‘Shahidi Divas’ to pay homage those who died during the agitation, drew up plans for a 24-hour relay hunger strike on Monday, and threatened to block NH9 if their counterparts were not allowed to move towards the Ghazipur border in 24 hours.
The letter from Union agriculture ministry joint secretary Vivek Aggarwal — 11 days after the breakdown of talks — to Darshan Pal of the Sanyukt Kisan Morcha was marked also to 31 unions from Punjab, one from Haryana headed by Gurnam Singh Charuni and seven from other states, including Shiv Kumar Kalkaji, Hanan Mollah, Rakesh Kumar Tikait and Kavitha Kuruganti.
It outlined all the details of amendments to the laws to which the Centre had already agreed. The farm leaders said they would discuss the contents of the letter and take a decision later.
The letter outlined details of amendments to which the Centre had already agreed, including assurance on purchase of crops at the MSP, not diluting the APMC, registration of dealers, levying taxes on purchasers in private mandis and not allowing anyone to deal in food grains only on a PAN card as earlier announced. The letter included all details of previous dates on which meetings were held.
“The government has consistently been trying to discuss all concerns of farmers with an open mind. Besides discussing these issues with protesting farmers’ unions, the Centre has also kept its door open to discuss the issues (concerning farm laws) with other farmer organisations as well… The government has also been trying to talk to protesting farmer representatives individually,” Aggarwal said in his letter. His letter was in response to Pal’s December 16 email informing him of the unions’ decision rejecting the Centre’s December 9 proposals on amending farm laws and clarifying certain provisions. Pal had also requested the Centre not to defame the farmers’ movement and “stop holding parallel talks” with other farmer organisations (those not involved in the protest).
Responding, Aggarwal said in his letter, “It is not clear from your email whether it was your individual opinion or it was the consensus decision of all unions. Besides, it is also not clear as to why the government proposal (of December 9) was rejected.”
Earlier, the SKM, a conglomerate of over 400 all-India farmer organisations, said that in addition to the hunger strike at every protest site on Delhi’s borders, it would also halt toll collection on Haryana’s highways for three days — from December 25 to 27.
The SKM, apart from asking people across the country to “skip a meal” on December 23, the birth anniversary of former PM and farm leader Chaudhary Charan Singh, has also decided that all its members and supporters will beat utensils (thalis) during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “Mann ki Baat” programme, among other measures, to maintain pressure on the Union government to repeal the three contentious central agri-marketing laws. It also termed PM Modi’s visit to Delhi’s Gurdwara Rakab Ganj on Sunday morning as a moral victory for the farmers.
On December 25 and 26, farm leaders will visit the residences of the leaders of BJP’s alliance partners to submit a memorandum seeking the repeal of the three central farm laws. “Farmers will approach the NDA partners asking them to compel the government to withdraw the farm laws. After all, they are shareholders in the government. If they don’t agree with us, we will boycott them too,” farmer leader Jagjit Singh Dallewala said at a joint press conference with Darshan Pal, Yogendra Yadav and others at the Delhi-Haryana Singhu Border. They hinted that the message was mainly for Jannayak Janta Party (JJP), which is in alliance with BJP in the M L Khattar-led Haryana government.
Yogendra Yadav of Jai Kisan Andolan, a constituent of the farmer unions’ umbrella body AIKSCC, said the farmers would begin the relay hunger strike at all protest sites around Delhi as well as in other states, such as Telangana and UP, with 11-member teams being on fast daily. The SKM urged Indians residing abroad to lodge a protest against the agri laws at India’s embassies in their respective countries on December 26.
Earlier in the day, former Uttarakhand CM Harish Rawat and singer Babu Mann had attended the “Shaheed Divas” organised by a group of farmers at UP Gate to pay tribute to those who died during the agitation. Rawat, however, said he had come in his personal capacity.
In Punjab and Rajasthan, various farmer organisations and others held “shardanjali samarohs” to pay tribute to the farmers who died during the ongoing protest in Delhi.