Protesting farm unions have said they will write to British lawmakers and Prime Minister Boris Johnson not to travel to India to take part in Republic Day celebrations next month until the Modi government scraps three pieces of legislation they say will hurt their livelihoods.
Uncertainty over resumption of talks between farm unions and the government over three contentious agricultural laws lingered on as farm unions said Tuesday they needed wider consultations on whether to hold negotiations again.
“We will make more toll plazas freeways and write to Boris Johnson to defer his India visit as a mark of protest,” Kulwant Singh, a senior farm union leader, said.
Farm unions were to decide on a response to a set of written concessions sent out by farm minister Narendra Tomar to end the month-long agitation by farmers against the three pro-reform agricultural laws.
The unions have constituted a five-member committee to discuss with representatives of nearly 450 organisations protesting the three farm laws on whether and when to hold talks with the government, a senior farm leader said.
On December 20, a senior farm ministry bureaucrat wrote to the unions on behalf of the agriculture minister, urging farmers to resume talks and suggest a date.
The concessions offered by the government, which the farmers have rejected, include greater oversight on proposed free markets, sparing farmers penalties for pollution-causing farm fires, an assurance on support prices and allowing farmers access to civil courts to settle disputes.
Protesting unions held a meeting on Tuesday. They will meet again on Wednesday at 3pm to arrive at a decision, Darshan Pal, a senior member leading the protests at Delhi’s Singhu Border, said.
The All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee (AIKSCC), a major platform of farm unions, said the government was pushing “farmer leaders to give specific point-by-point critique of the clauses (in farm laws)” although the farmers’ representatives “unanimously concluded and explained on December 3 that the Acts have to be repealed”.
“But the government selectively picked issues and is now trying to claim that those are the main issues,” AIKSCC secretary Avik Saha said.
Tens of thousands of farmers from Punjab and Haryana have hunkered down along Delhi’s borders demanding scrapping of the laws. The changes pushed by the government allow free markets for agricultural trade, permit traders to stockpile farm commodities for future sales and a national law on contract farming.
Farmers say easing of restrictions will erode their bargaining power and leave them at the mercy of big corporations.
Protests by farmers have continued, with cultivators resorting to a relay hunger strike and chalking out plans to intensify their agitation.