Breaking the deadlock between Centre and agitating farmers in Punjab, 28 out of 29 farmer unions protesting againsfarm laws for past three weeks, will send their representatives to Delhi on Wednesday to attend a meeting on the invite of the Union Agriculture Secretary.
While BKU (Ugrahan) — a key farm outfit from Malwa — had announced its decision to attend the meeting on Monday, rest 27 farmer unions met in Chandigarh on Tuesday and decided to send a 7-member delegation with a charter of their demands.
BKU (Ugrahan), meanwhile, will send a 3-member delegation with a different memorandum of demands. In all, 10 farmer leaders from Punjab will be attending the Delhi meeting.
The 29th farm outfit which is part of the protests in Punjab, Kisan Mazdoor Sangrash Committee (KMSC), had announced Monday that will not attend the meeting. Both KMSC and BKU (Ugrahan) were not part of the meeting of 27 farmer unions in Chandigarh on Tuesday.
Earlier, all 29 unions had dug in their heels and stated that they would not sit across the table with the Agriculture Secretary and would meet the Union ministers alone.
But on Tuesday, the farmers decided that they would go and meet Union Agriculture Secretary Sanjay Agarwal on Wednesday.
After the meeting of 27 unions in Chandigarh, president of Bharti Kisan Union (Rajewal), Balbir Singh Rajewal, said that they had prepared their case to put up before the Centre.
“We are giving everything in writing to the Agriculture Secretary. The talks will take place only if the Union ministers meet us. The ball is in Centre’s court now as to when the Union ministers would like to meet us,” said Rajewal.
The farmer leaders who would represent the 27 organisations will include Balbir Singh Rajewal, Dr Darshan Pal, Jagjit Singh Dallewal, Satnam Singh Sahni, Jagmohan Singh and Surjit Singh Phool.
Rajewal and Dr Darshan Pal have prepared the points to be given to the Agriculture Secretary, and the emphasis is on Minimum Support Price (MSP).
While most of the 27 unions were against attending the meeting in Delhi, Rajewal is learnt to have impressed upon the other leaders that they should be open for a dialogue and talks provide solutions. He argued that if they would continue to take their stand of not holding a meeting, it would convey a wrong signal as Agarwal has already invited them twice. The farmer organisations had turned down the earlier invite. These outfits, however, agreed that they will not have any talks with the officials, but have deliberations only with the Union ministers.
In their charter of demands being submitted to Agarwal, the farmer leaders will ask for scrapping of all three farm laws besides demanding implementation of MS Swaminathan Commission report. They will also demand that there should be an MSP regime and it should be followed in the letter and spirit. They also want that nobody should be allowed to purchase any produce below the MSP. The farmers have also decided to ask for a state-financed farmers’ cooperative food processing unit.
BKU (Ugrahan) to send 3-member panel
Three members from the Ugrahan group which will attend the Delhi meeting are Joginder Singh Ugrahan, president of the union, its general secretary Sukhdev Singh Kokrikalan, and its senior vice-president, Jhanda Singh Jethuke.
When contacted, Kokrikalan said: “We have not signed on the charter of demands made by the rest 27 farmer unions.” He added:
“We will see what the Centre says tomorrow and deal with the issues that come up”
Jethuke clarified: “We are in coordination with the rest of the unions. However, our three-member team will go separately and we will meet the rest of the union members in Delhi. We have always supported all the programmes of other farmer unions, but our tents were always separate. We have asked for the charter of demands prepared by the 27 unions. If we have different demands, then we will present them separately.”
He added, “We have made a detailed memorandum of our own about negative effects of all the three laws which need to be withdrawn and even the electricity act as well because it may end the free power subsidy of farmers and even free 400 units to BPL families.”
Asked about two delegations going to Delhi for talks, Dr Darshan Pal, president of Krantikari Kisan Union, said, “They (Ugrahan group) are on the same struggle path as we are, but they have adopted a different method by not coming to Tuesday’s meeting. However, our issues are the same.”
Taking separate decisions: KMSC
A day after announcing that they will not attend the Delhi meeting, the KMSC, a major farm outfit in Punjab’s Majha region, on Tuesday said that they are taking separate decisions on advancing the struggle for farmers’ rights.
Satnam Singh Pannu, president of Kisan Mazdoor Sangrash Committee, said, ”We had announced on Monday itself that we will not be going to Delhi. We are in coordination with the rest of the farmer unions to fight against farm laws. Otherwise, we are not part of any decision made by any of the other farmer associations. We take our separate decisions.”
Speaking about the KMSC, Dr Darshan Pal added: “They have never come for any meeting, but they have been telling us that we have their support. They will agree with whatever decision is taken by us. They did not come for the meeting today but this does not mean we have parted ways.”
No end to rail blockade
Meanwhile, there is no end to rail blockade going on in the state, despite efforts from the Punjab government to convince agitating farmers over lifting of dharnas from railway tracks.
On Tuesday, farmer organisations, who were refusing to meet the ministers panel formed by the Chief Minister, met Tript Rajinder Singh Bajwa and Sukhbinder Singh Sarkaria in Chandigarh. Accompanied by Chief Minister’s political secretary, Capt Sandeep Singh Sandhu, the ministers appealed to the farmers to lift dharnas from railway tracks as it was affecting transport of coal, fertilisers, petroleum products and supplies to defence personnel.
“We asked the ministers to first reply about what happened about the special Vidhan Sabha session, a promise made to us by the Chief Minister himself on September 29. They have promised that the decision would be announced tomorrow after the Cabinet meeting,” said Rajewal, who also announced unions’ participation in a chakka jam by farmers across India in November.
The farmer leaders told the ministers that they would take a call on the rail roko in a meeting on October 15, scheduled in Chandigarh.
Tript Bajwa told The Indian Express: “We had a cordial meeting with the farmers. They told us they are preoccupied with their meeting in Delhi tomorrow. They told us they will take a call about lifting the dharnas on Thursday. We have appealed to them strongly that it was in the interest of residents of Punjab on the whole as the coal supply needs to be resumed fast, and also in the interest of the farmers who would soon require fertilisers. We told them that the supplies to defence personnel were also affected. Also, consignments of basmati to be exported to other countries were also stuck. They have told us that they will consider the appeals on October 15.”
About the special session, Bajwa said, “We told the farmers that the session will certainly be held. The date would be out tomorrow. But the bigger issue is about studying all the legal aspects of what we are going to do in the Assembly. If whatever legislation is passed, does not stand judicial scrutiny, there is no point passing it.”
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