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The farmers protesting against the three farm laws, clashed with police at several places in the national capital on Tuesday. The Delhi Police had earlier permitted the farmers to hold their tractor parade on selected routes on the Republic Day. The chaos erupted when the farmers broke through the police barricades in the capital. A protesting farmer died after his tractor overturned at ITO during the farmers’ tractor parade on Tuesday, police said.

What farmers want

Thousands of farmers, mostly from Punjab, Haryana and western Uttar Pradesh, have been camping at several Delhi border points since 26 November last year, demanding a repeal of three farm laws — Farmers' Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020; the Farmers Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and farm Services Act 2020 and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020. They also demanded a legal guarantee on Minimum Support Prices (MSP) for their crops.

Farmer unions in Punjab and Haryana said the recent laws enacted at the Centre will dismantle the minimum support price (MSP) system. Over time big corporate houses will dictate terms and farmers will end up getting less for their crops, they argue. Farmers fear that with the virtual disbanding of the mandi system, they will not get an assured price for their crops and the “arthiyas" —commission agents who also pitch in with loans for them — will be out of business. Their demands: The key demand is the withdrawal of the three laws which deregulate the sale of their crops. The farmer unions could also settle for a legal assurance that the MSP system will continue, ideally through an amendment to the laws.

They also wanted the government to withdraw of the proposed Electricity (Amendment) Bill 2020, fearing it will lead to an end to subsidised electricity. Farmers say rules against stubble burning should also not apply to them.

11 rounds of talks but no results

To break the impasse, the government which has so far held eleven rounds of talks with the farmers. In the last round of talks on Wednesday when it offered to suspend the laws for 1-1.5 years and form a joint committee to find solutions, in return for protesting farmers going back to their respective homes from Delhi borders.

Farmer leaders, however, said they would settle for nothing less than a complete repeal of the laws, enacted in September last year, which they find pro-corporate, and a legal guarantee for the procurement of crops at government-fixed MSP.

SC stays the implementation of new farm laws till further orders

On 11 January, the Supreme Court stayed the implementation of new farm laws till further orders and decided to set up a 4-member committee to resolve the impasse over them between the Centre and farmers' unions protesting at Delhi borders. The four names of members include Bhupinder Singh Mann, President of Bhartiya Kisan Union; Anil Ghanwat, President of Shetkeri Sangthana, Maharashtra; Pramod Kumar Joshi, director for South Asia, International Food Policy Research Institute, and agriculture economist Ashok Gulati.

Later, Bhartiya Kisan Union president Bhupinder Singh Mann had recused himself from the committee appointed by the apex court.

Three farm laws

The Farmers' Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020 seeks to provide for the creation of an ecosystem where the farmers and traders enjoy the freedom of choice relating to sale and purchase of farmers' produce which facilitates remunerative prices through competitive alternative trading channels to promote efficient, transparent and barrier-free inter-state and intra-state trade, said the government. It also seeks to commerce of farmers' produce outside physical premises of markets or deemed markets notified under various state agricultural produce market legislations; to provide a facilitative framework for electronic trading and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto, the ministry said.

The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, 2020 seeks to provide for a national framework on farming agreements that protects and empowers farmers to engage with agri-business firms, processors, wholesalers, exporters or large retailers for farm services and sale of future farming produce at a mutually agreed remunerative price framework in a fair and transparent manner and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto, the ministry said.

The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill, 2020 seeks to remove commodities like cereals, pulses, oil seeds, edible oils, onion and potatoes from the list of essential commodities. This will remove fears of private investors of excessive regulatory interference in their business operations, the ministry added.

(With inputs from agencies)

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