September 19, 2023

Punjab farmers reject Agriculture Ministry’s invitation to discuss farm laws

Several farmers’ organizations in Punjab on Wednesday rejected the Union Agriculture Department’s invitation to a meeting on the new farm laws, saying an officer does not have to tell them whether the laws are beneficial to them.

Farmer agitation bodies, however, said they were ready for talks if a suitable invitation came to them from the central government.

Representatives of farmers’ organizations also announced they would continue their ‘rail roko’ agitation against the Centre’s three farm bills despite a call from Chief Minister Amarinder Singh to relax it to allow freight trains to cross the ‘State.

They also gave an ultimatum to the chief minister to call an extraordinary session of the Punjab assembly to pass a resolution rejecting these agriculture laws within a week, otherwise, they said, they would go after congressional leaders and government officials.

Various farmer organizations have staged statewide protests against the new farm laws.

The farmers’ organizations declined the Centre’s invitation to speak to him saying that an agent does not have to tell them if the three central laws are beneficial for them.
“We reject the letter of invitation to a meeting from an officer (secretary) of the Ministry of Agriculture. We’re not going to talk to any officers. We are ready for talks provided a proper written invitation comes from the central government,” said a representative of a farmers’ organization.

The farmers said an officer of the rank of secretary in the Union Department of Agriculture invited five to six farmer leaders to attend a “conference to address their concerns” on October 8 in Delhi.

“If any officer wants to talk to us about the benefits of these laws, we will not hear him because we know these legislations are against the farming community,” said Jagmohan Singh, general secretary of the Bhartiya Kisan (Dakunda) Union.

Asked about Chief Minister Amarinder Singh’s appeal to quell their ‘rail-roko’ unrest, farmers’ leaders said they would continue.

“We are farmers and we know agricultural practices very well. We know when DAP or urea is needed,” said another farmer leader.

“Electricity is purchased from outside and the paddy planting season is already over,” he added.

The farmers, however, said they would consider the CM’s appeal at the next meeting on October 15.

Amarinder had urged protesting farmers to ease their rail blockade to ensure the state is able to meet its critical needs.

Due to the prolonged blockade of freight trains, the situation at coal-fired power stations in Punjab was critical and they had only five to six days of coal left, the CM said.

He had also said that as no fertilizer rakes entered Punjab in the past week, there might be a severe shortage of fertilizers for use by farmers to sow wheat.

The farmers have called on the CM to keep its “promise” to hold a special session of the Punjab Vidhan Sabha to pass a resolution against these legislations.

Issue an ultimatum to the CM, they said they would go to war with Congress leaders and government officials if the resolution was not passed within a week.

Farmer leaders also announced that they will block roads for two hours on October 9 to protest against lathi’s accusation against restless farmers in Haryana.

Meanwhile, 30 different farmers’ organizations have asked BKU (Lakhowal) not to attend their joint meeting until they withdraw their petition for an order filed against the farm laws in the Supreme Court.

At present, farmers continue to block train tracks at 33 locations across the state. In addition, they also staged sit-ins in front of several gas pumps, toll booths and shopping malls.

They also organize “dharnas” in front of the houses of some BJP leaders.

The farmers said they would continue their agitation until their demand to revoke the farm laws is not granted.

Farmers have expressed concern that the Centre’s agricultural reforms could pave the way for the dismantling of the minimum support price system, leaving them at the “mercy” of big business.

President Ram Nath Kovind had given his assent to the three contentious bills – the Agriculture Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020; the Farmers’ (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, 2020 and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill, 2020.