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In an attempt to break the deadlock, a panel of union ministers held fourth rounds of talks with the farm union leaders last evening. The farmers have been protesting for the past week. Among the other demands of the farmers is a legal guarantee of the Minimum Support Price (MSP). Agriculture and Farmer Welfare Minister Arjun Munda, Minister of Commerce and Industry Piyush Goyal and Minister of State for Home Affairs Nityanand Rai held talks with the farm union leaders and the meeting was joined by Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann.

Centre Proposes Purchase Plan

Addressing the media after the five-hour-long meeting, Piyush Goyal said the government has proposed the buying of pulses, maize, and cotton crops by government agencies at minimum support prices for five years after agreeing with farmers. The farmer leaders said they will discuss the government’s proposal in their forums over the next two days and thereafter, decide the future course of action.

“Cooperative societies like the NCCF (National Cooperative Consumers Federation) and NAFED (National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation of India) will enter into a contract with those farmers who grow ‘tur dal’, ‘urad dal’, ‘masoor dal’ or maize for buying their crop at MSP for next five years,” said Goyal. He said that there would be no cap on the purchase quantity and a portal would be developed for this and added that the move would save Punjab’s farming, improve the groundwater table, and save the land from getting barren.

Farmers To Consider Proposal

On the Centre’s proposal, farmer leader Sarwan Singh Pandher said, “We will discuss in our forums on February 19-20 and take the opinion of experts regarding it and accordingly take a decision.” He said that other demands including loan waivers are pending and hoped that these would be resolved in the next two days. He also said that the ‘Delhi Chalo’ march is currently on hold, but will resume at 11 am on February 21 if all the issues are not resolved.

Farmers Protest Background

Since February 13, protesting farmers from Punjab have been stationed at Shambhu and Khanauri points along the state’s border with Haryana. Their ‘Delhi Chalo’ march, initiated by the Samyukta Kisan Morcha (Non-Political) and the Kisan Mazdoor Morcha to assert their demands, was interrupted by the police.

The farmers’ key demands include a legal guarantee of Minimum Support Price (MSP), the implementation of the Swaminathan Commission’s recommendations, pension for farmers and farm labourers, farm debt waiver, no increase in electricity tariff, withdrawal of police cases, and seeking “justice” for the victims of the 2021 Lakhimpur Kheri violence. Additionally, they are advocating for the reinstatement of the Land Acquisition Act, of 2013, and compensation for the families of farmers who lost their lives during a previous agitation in 2020-21. (With agency inputs)