Farmers Protests: Negotiations, MSP Guarantees, and Crop Diversification

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Result of negotiations of fourth round on MSP :

The central government is willing to provide MSP for four more crops, a decision that needs to be formalized for a five-year term.

Farmers will need to enter into a five-year agreement with NAFED and CCI for the production of lentils, urad, corn, and cotton. Today, farmer organizations will announce their final decision on the government’s proposal, while the ongoing agitation continues.

Addressing the issue of the minimum support price (MSP) for crops, in the fourth round of talks held in Chandigarh on Sunday between farmer leaders and three central ministers, the central government has expressed readiness to implement MSP for four additional crops. Apart from rice and wheat, the proposal includes lentils, urad, corn, and cotton, but for this, farmers will need to enter into a five-year agreement with the National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation of India (NAFED) and the Cotton Corporation of India (CCI).

At the meeting on the central government’s proposal, farmer leaders present stated that they would consult with all organizations and announce the final decision on Monday. After a nearly five-hour-long meeting, Union Minister Piyush Goyal informed journalists that the fourth-round discussion was highly positive.

Diversification of crops is essential to conserve groundwater levels in Punjab and Haryana. In this context, the government has proposed a progressive plan, and most farmers have expressed conceptual agreement.

Meanwhile, during the meeting, Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann, addressing reporters outside, emphasized the crucial need for crop diversification, provided the government guarantees MSP for alternative crops. Following this, other crops could also be brought under its ambit. We await the response of farmer organizations to the central government’s proposal.

Earlier in the discussion, farmer leaders made it clear that they would not settle for anything less than legal guarantees for MSP, citing the central ordinances. The meeting, which began with a delay of about two hours, included Union Ministers Arjun Munda, Piyush Goyal, and Nityanand Rai, along with Punjab CM Bhagwant Mann and Agriculture Minister Gurmeet Singh Khudian.

Even before the meeting, farmer leaders Sarwan Singh Pandher and Jagjit Singh Dallewal stated that they would not accept anything less than an ordinance guaranteeing MSP. The meeting was ongoing at the time of reporting. Meanwhile, the central government has extended the internet ban in seven districts of Punjab bordering Haryana – Patiala, SAS Nagar, Bathinda, Muktsar Sahib, Mansa, Sangrur, and Fatehgarh Sahib – until February 24.

“Internet services were previously suspended in three districts from February 12 to 16. Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann had raised the issue of internet shutdown in the meeting held on February 15 in Chandigarh with central ministers. Similarly, Haryana has also suspended mobile internet and bulk SMS services in Ambala, Kurukshetra, Kaithal, Jind, Hisar, Fatehabad, and Sirsa districts.

Earlier, the United Farmers’ Front had decided in a meeting in Ludhiana to lift toll plaza fees from February 20 to 22. Toll plazas in several districts were also made free on Sunday. In the Ludhiana meeting, 37 farmer unions participated.

Farmers’ Leaders Speak….

After the meeting, farmer leader Jagjeet Singh Dallewal stated that they will discuss the government’s proposal (on MSP) with their platforms and experts, and then arrive at a resolution. Our march will continue until our demands are met. There is a need for discussions on several other demands.

Punjab Kisan Mazdoor Struggle Committee’s General Secretary Sarwan Singh Pandher said that in the next two days, they will discuss the government’s proposal. The government will also consider other demands. If no result is obtained, the ‘Delhi Chalo’ march will continue on February 21.

“Prior to engaging with the farmers’ leaders, central ministers held a distinct meeting at Hotel Hayat with Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann, Chief Secretary Anurag Verma, and DGP Gaurav Yadav. During this session, conversations encompassed not only the concerns of the farmers but also delved into the law and order situation prevailing in the state.”

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