Tuesday, January 26, 2021
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Farmer Protests: Govt agrees to two of four demands, farmers not to be punished for burning stubble, electricity subsidy to continue

Farmers have asserted that they will not end the protests unless their other two demands are also not met, repeal of new farm laws and law on MSP

After the 6th round of meeting between the union government and the protesting farmers against the new farm laws, a consensus has been reached on two less continuous among the four demands of the farmers mainly from Punjab. Following the conclusion of the meeting, union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar said that the talks were held in a very good environment and it concluded on a positive note.

One issue which has been resolved is the issue of penalising farmers for burning stubble that causes massive air pollution in Delhi and adjoining areas. As this has become a yearly phenomenon, the government of India had introduced the ‘Commission for Air Quality Management in National Capital Region and Adjoining Areas Ordinance 2020’, to deal with air pollution. The govt had taken this step after several PILs were filed in the Supreme Court seeking to control air pollution.

According to the ordinance, the Commission will have jurisdiction over NCR, including areas in Haryana, Punjab, UP and Rajasthan with regard to air pollution. The ordinance gives the commission the power to impose jail term of five years or fine of upto Rs one crore, or both, for violation of any measures or directions issued by the commission to control air pollution. Farmers were apprehending that they will also have to face action under this ordinance if they are found guilty of burning stubble.

Now, after the meeting, the union govt has agreed to amend the ordinance to keep the famers out of the ambit of it. This means that, despite a new body being set up to reduce air pollution, no action will be able to be taken up against one of the major sources of air pollution in NCR during the September-December period.

The second issue to be resolved is the amendments to the Electricity Act. Farmers are fearing that if reforms are introduced in the Electricity Act, they will suffer loss. The farmer unions demanded that the power subsidy currently given to the farmers for irrigation should continue. The centre has agreed to this demand also.

However, stalemate continues over other two demands of the farmers, withdrawal of the three farm laws and a law to guarantee MSP (Minimum Support Price). The central govt has made it clear that the laws will not be taken back, but if the farmers can point out any specific issues with the laws, the same can be amended. But the unions are not willing to, or may be not able to, point out any flaws in the laws, and demanding their total withdrawal. It is noteworthy that till few months ago, farmer unions and opposition parties like Congress were demanding and promising the provisions made in the new farm laws.

MSP is continuing for decades as an executive decision without any law to back it, but now the farmers want a law for it. The govt has also assured that the MSP will continue, however, has not committed to bringing a law to guarantee that.

Farmers have asserted that they will not end the protests unless their other two demands are also not met. The next round of talks will be held on January 4. Minister Tomar said that the meet will focus on minimum support price and the three agriculture laws.

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