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Agriculture

Talks With Union Ministers Inconclusive, Farmers Stick With Plan to March to Delhi

Farmers' leaders said the Union government was unwilling to commit to an MSP law and a farm loan waiver.

Chandigarh: A crucial meeting between Union ministers and farmers’ leaders on Monday failed to yield a consensus, even though it continued past 11 pm. As a result, farmers’ leaders announced they will go ahead with their scheduled ‘Dilli Chalo’ march on February 13 at 10 am.

Union food minister Piyush Goyal and agriculture minister Arjun Munda were a part of the meeting that went for close to five hours.

After the meeting, convener of the Samyukt Kisan Morcha (non-political) Jagjit Singh Dallewal told the media that the government was not serious about any of their demands including legalising the Minimum Support Price, withdrawing criminal cases filed during the 2020 farm protest, a farm loan waiver and several other issues.

“They were just trying to prolong the matter by forming some committees despite our hope for some positive outcome. Hence we have decided to march towards Delhi as planned tomorrow at 10 am,” said Dallewal, flanked by other farmers’ leaders. Around 200 farm union under the banner of the SKM (non political) and Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Committee (KMSC) are leading the protest.

KMSC leader Sarwan Singh Pandher too said after the meeting, “We will go Delhi tomorrow as planned. The government did not have any proposals. We hoped that the discussion with the ministers would bring some conclusion in our favour. But nothing concrete came out.”

He said, “Whenever the government calls for talks in the future, we will go. But our march stands. ”

On the other hand, Union minister Munda said, “There was a serious discussion with the farmers on every topic. The government wants to bring every solution through talks… We reached an agreement on some topics. But there were some topics for which we said that a committee should be made for a permanent solution… Any problem can be solved with discussion. We are hopeful that we will bring solutions… Our motive is that the rights of the farmers and the public are protected…”

Sources said that the major contention was on the issue of enacting an MSP law. While the Union government was asking for a committee on the issue, farmers’ leaders did not agree. Moreover, the Union did not make any commitment on a loan waiver. Dallewal told the media that several committees on the issue had already advocated the need to legalise the MSP. So another committee would have served no purpose. The Union, he said, was also not serious on a loan waiver, even as it waived off lakhs of crores of bad debt for big corporates.

Government’s efforts to block farmers’ movement

The meeting was being watched keenly since Bharatiya Janata Party-ruled Haryana sealed its borders with Punjab so as to prevent a repeat of the 2020-2021 farmers’ agitation by not allowing farmers to reach Delhi. Barricades and barbed wire were put up as part of security measures at several borders check posts en route Delhi from Punjab as well as Uttar Pradesh, with hundreds of security personnel and paramilitary forces guarding the borders.

Barricades put up by the police at the border. Photo: Special arrangement

Haryana Police even tested a tear gas shell-dropping drone system at Shambhu border near Ambala.

All these events have led to questions on whether there may be tensions as the farmers head to Delhi. As per ground reports, farmers have already begun leaving their towns and villages in far-flung areas of Punjab and were camping near Haryana-Punjab borders.

There have also been reports of farm union leaders being pressurised or arm twisted. The X (formerly Twitter) handles of several leaders were blocked. Internet is already suspended in seven districts of Haryana.