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Govt-Farmers’ fourth round of talks end, Centre proposes five-year plan to buy pulses, cotton, maize at MSP

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The fourth round of talks between the Union ministers, farmer leaders and others ended on Sunday. The meeting held in Chandigarh saw a panel of three Union ministers propose the buying of pulses, maize, and cotton crops by government agencies at Minimum Support Prices (MSP) for five years. Farmers sought two days’ time to discuss the proposal.

After more than a four-hour long meeting, Union Minister Piyush Goyal addressed the reporters saying “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”.

Among the several issues brought forward by the farmers, a consensus appeared for most of them barring two-three issues as per Goyal. Calling the proposal, the “innovative” and “out-of-the-box” idea that came up during the discussions, Goyal said that the proposal will save Punjab’s farming, improve the groundwater table, and save the land from getting barren, which is already under stress.

The talks that commenced at 8.15 pm on Sunday, came amid a protest by thousands of farmers from Punjab, to press the Centre to accept their 21-point demand charter. 

Apart from their primary demand to legalize guarantee on Minimum Support Price (MSP) for agricultural commodities, the protestors demand the implementation of the MS  Swaminathan Commission’s recommendations, loan waiver, pensions, and reinstatement of the Land Acquisition Act, 2013, among others

“There will be no limit on the quantity (purchased) and a portal will be developed for this,” Goyal said.

He further said, “We also want the cotton crop to be revived in Punjab. Whosoever farmer revives cotton or sows it, the CCI will enter into a legal agreement and whatever crop comes from the field through diversification will be bought for five years at MSP.”

After the meeting concluded, the farmer leaders have said that they will have a discussion with their forums and experts over the next two days i.e February 19-20 before deciding on the next course of action. 

Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann, who participated in the meeting as an advocate of the farmers batted for a legal MSP for crops to safeguard the interests of the farmers and said that an agreement for the purchase of these five crops should be made to push for crop diversification.

Speaking to the reporters, farmer leader Jagjit Singh Dallewal said that talks on several other demands are yet to be done, and the march will continue until their demands are met.

Meanwhile, thousands of protesting farmers who were camping at the Punjab-Haryana border, have put their ‘Delhi Chalo’ march on hold for two days until the farmers’ forums discuss the government’s proposal, and come to a conclusion. 

The meeting held at the Mahatma Gandhi State Institute of Public Administration in Sector 26, included — the Agriculture and Farmer Welfare Minister Arjun Munda, Minister of State for Home Affairs Nityanand Rai, and the Minister of Commerce and Industry, Piyush Goyal, and Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann.

Representing the farmers from Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, Karnataka and Delhi, were a  14-member delegation led by Sarvan Singh Pandher, the coordinator of the Kisan Mazdoor Morcha and general secretary of the Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Committee, and Jagjit Singh Dallewal, the president of Bharti Kisan Union Ekta (Sidhupur).

The Union ministers and farmer leaders had met earlier on February 8, 12 and 15 but the talks remained inconclusive. As is the case with the fourth meeting. 

Moreover, the farmer unions and khap panchayats in Haryana would join the protesting Punjab farmer organizations if the talks with the government fail, says Gurnam Singh Charuni, national president of Bharatiya Kisan Union (Charuni), which was a constituent of the Samyukt Kisan Morcha which had spearheaded the 13- month-long farmers’ agitation. 

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