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Won't Call Off Tractor Rally On Republic Day, Say Protesting Farmers

NEW DELHI, Jan 17: The protesting farmers refused to call off their Republic Day tractor rally and said the probe by the National Investigation Agency is meant to break their big protest.

Today, as the agency summoned 40 people -- including farmer leader Baldev Singh Sirsa -- for questioning in a case related to the banned outfit Sikhs For Justice, farmers alleged that the government has resorted to "atrocities". The government is opposing the tractor rally legally -- the matter will be heard by the Supreme Court tomorrow.

"Action is being taken against those who cooperate in the movement," alleged a farmer leader. "We condemn the action the NIA is taking, we will fight against it legally, not only in the court. The government's attitude is oppressive," he added.

In a tweet, Shiromani Akali Dal leader and former Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal called it an attempt to intimidate the farmers.

"Strongly condemn Centre's attempts to intimidate farmer leaders & supporters of Kisan Andolan by calling them for questioning by NIA & ED. They aren't anti-nationals. And after failure of talks for the 9th time, it's absolutely clear that GOI is only trying to tire out farmers," his tweet read.

The government has challenged the farmers' plans to hold the rally on Republic Day in the Supreme Court, saying it will be an "embarrassment to the nation".

The farmers said their rally -- in which 1000 tractors will participate -- will be peaceful and won't interrupt the day's big parade at Rajpath.

"We will not interrupt the parade on Republic Day," a farmer leader told the media at Delhi's Singhu border. The 50-km parade, they said, will be held in the Outer Ring Road, the road encircling the city.

"We hope the Delhi and Haryana Police will cooperate in this. This parade will be peaceful," the leader said.

The farmers planed the tractor rally as repeated talks with the government failed to resolve the deadlock over the laws, which they say will shrink their income and place them at the mercy of big corporates.

The government has refused to repeal the laws, which have been flagged as its big ticket reforms in the farm sector.

Last week, the Supreme Court put the laws on hold and formed a committee to discuss the issue with all sides and give a report within two months. The farmers, however, have rejected the panel, saying all the members are pro-government.

 

Farmers, Govt talks 'Fail 120%': Leader

NEW DELHI, Jan 15: The ninth round of discussion between farmers demanding repeal of the three agriculture laws and the centre -- held days after the Supreme Court stayed their enactment "until further orders" -- ended today with no progress towards ending the stalemate.

"It was a 120 per cent failure. We suggested that the government remove the changes made to the Essential Commodities Act instead of scrapping it altogether. But the Agriculture Minister has not said anything on this," farmer leader Dr Darshanpal said.

The next round of talks would be held on January 19, the day the court-appointed committee was likely to start consulting stakeholders to end the impasse.

To increase pressure on the government, the farmer unions have decided to go ahead and intensify their stir with a tractor rally on January 26. "Our proposed Tractor rally will be held, will be held, will be held," Dr Darshanpal added.

Leaders of the 40 farmers' unions negotiating with the centre also said they want continued direct communication with the centre, "not brokers". They maintain they will not appear before the panel since the members were already in "favour of the farm laws".

The government has agreed to engage directly with farmers, but said that if they want they can go to the court-appointed committee as well.

"The government and farmers should continue looking for solutions, formally and informally. Whatever we can agree on during these talks will decide the future course of action. The government is committed to follow the Supreme Court's order," Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar said.

By agreeing to continue talks even after the top court's decision to appoint a committee, it appears that negotiations may be held on two separate tracks simultaneously.

During Friday's meeting farmer leaders also raised the issue of continued raids by central agencies on those supporting their movement logistically, and use of the stringent Unlawful Activities Prevention Act against them.

The centre, which had earlier blamed the raids on the state government, has said it will look into the issue, sources said.

Meanwhile, some farmers have also started demanding Prime Minister Narendra Modi's intervention to resolve the talks that are being led by the Agriculture Minister, Food Minister Piyush Goyal and Minister of State for Commerce Som Parkash, who is an MP from Punjab.

On January 12, the country's top court had put the three contentious laws on hold and formed a panel noting that "no solution was in sight".

Tens of thousands of farmers have been camping around Delhi since November 26 demanding repeal of three farm laws saying they would leave them vulnerable to exploitation. The centre has maintained the laws would open new markets and increase their income by eliminating middlemen.

Congress MP Questions Covaxin Rollout

NEW DELHI, Jan 13: The controversy around Covaxin, one of the two anti-COVID-19 vaccines India will deploy to fight back the pandemic, refuses to die even as the Indian government goes full-steam ahead with the mass inoculation programme.

As Bharat Biotech's product was carried to Delhi and 10 other cities this morning, the Congress party sounded another note of caution citing the Centre's supposed flip-flop on its administration.

The vaccine, developed by the Hyderabad-based company in collaboration with the Indian Council of Medical Research, has been touted as a key example of India's indigenous manufacturing and medical research muscle besides being a veritable example of the success of Make in India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi's flagship programme.

However, the vaccine is yet to clear its phase-III trials, due to which the government had earlier said it was to be used only in case of emergency as a secondary option.

Yet, a report yesterday quoted Union Health secretary Rajesh Bhushan to say that such a choice won't be available to Indians immediately.
"Now the government is saying recipients won't be able to pick and choose the vaccine…When phase 3 trials of Covaxin is not complete, it raises various concerns on its efficacy," said Manish Tewari, Congress spokesperson and Sri Anandpur Sahib MP.

"You can't use rollout as phase 3 trial, Indians are not guinea pigs," Tewari said. "Till yesterday NDA/BJP claimed Covaxin has been cleared for emergency use."

On January 11, tagging Union Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan, Tewari had tweeted asking if Bharat Biotech's vaccine was safe for human use and if the government could guarantee its safety and efficacy.

Supreme Court Puts On Hold 3 Farm Laws

NEW DELHI, Jan 12: The three new laws at the heart of massive farmer protests near Delhi will not come into force for now. The Supreme Court today pressed pause on the laws enacted in September in a huge blow to the government.

The top court also said a committee of agricultural experts would take over negotiations with farmers to end the crisis, and called it a "victory of fair play".

"We are staying three farm laws until further orders," Chief Justice SA Bobde said, announcing the order.

"While we may not stifle a peaceful protest, we think that this extraordinary order of stay of implementation of the farm laws will be perceived as an achievement of the purpose of such protest at least for the present and will encourage the farmers bodies to convince their members to get back to their livelihood, both in order to protect their own lives and health and in order to protect the lives and properties of others."

The government had told the court that the laws "were not hurriedly made", that they were the result of two decades of deliberations.

In eight rounds of talks with farmers' unions over the past month, the government had firmly ruled out withdrawing the laws but had offered to make amendments.

Noting that "no solution was in sight", the Supreme Court said it was trying to solve the problem in the best way and had the power to suspend the laws.

"These are matters of life and death. We are concerned with laws. We are concerned with lives and property of people affected by the agitation. We are trying to solve the problem in the best way. One of the powers we have is to suspend the legislation," the Chief Justice said.

"We want to solve the problem and that's why we are making the committee," he added.

The names suggested by the Supreme Court include agricultural economist Ashok Gulati, Anil Ghanwat (Shetkari Sanghatana), Bhupinder Singh Mann (former Rajya Sabha) and Pramod Joshi (International Food Policy Research Institute). All four are known to support the farm laws.

Former Chief Justice of India RM Lodha, widely tipped to head the panel, said he had declined the offer.

The top court also issued notice to farmers' unions on a Delhi Police plea to stop a tractor rally on January 26, during Republic Day parade.

The judges rebuffed the lawyer for protesting farmers, ML Sharma, as he said farmers would not participate in the committee as Prime Minister Narendra Modi had refused to talk to them. "We cannot ask the PM anything, he is not a party before us," said the Chief Justice.

"This is not politics. There is a difference between politics and judiciary and you will have to cooperate."

Yesterday, the Supreme Court had said it was "extremely disappointed" by the government's handling of the crisis.

"Each one of us we will responsible if anything goes wrong. We don't want any injuries or blood on our hands. Who is going to be responsible for bloodshed if any," the Chief Justice had said in a series of sharp comments.

The farmers, protesting on highways outside Delhi since late November, have said they will accept nothing short of the government cancelling the laws, which they believe will deprive them of the Minimum Support Price (MSP) – the guaranteed cost at which the government buys from them -- and leave them at the mercy of corporates. They have refused to buy the central government's argument that the laws will bring long-delayed reforms in the agriculture sector by doing away with middlemen and allowing farmers to sell anywhere in the country.

The court said today that with its stay order, "the Minimum Support Price System in existence before the enactment of the Farm Laws shall be maintained until further orders. In addition, the farmers' land holdings shall be protected, i.e., no farmer shall be dispossessed or deprived of his title as a result of any action taken under the Farm Laws."

Indian Government Orders 11 Million Oxford Vaccine Doses

NEW DELHI, Jan 11: The Covishield vaccine manufactured by the Serum Institute of India (SII) will be priced at ₹ 200 a dose after a price agreement was arrived at with the government, sources have said. The first 100 million doses will be priced ₹ 200, say SII sources. Eleven million doses will be supplied to the government in the initial tranche.

With the government placing the order this evening, the drug is expected to roll out of SII's Pune facilities at 4.30 am tomorrow.

"The price is fixed in writing,'' said sources in the SII adding that exports of the life-saving vaccine are expected after January 16 as well.

"A few million doses of Covishield will be supplied every week. 11 million doses may be supplied in the initial lot," they added.

The process of administering the vaccine will start on Saturday, the government said last weekend after Prime Minister Narendra Modi's meeting to review vaccine preps. "After a detailed review, it was decided that in view of the forthcoming festivals including Lohri, Makar Sankranti, Pongal, Magh Bihu, the COVID-19 vaccination will start from January 16," said a statement.

The SII vaccine developed by Oxford-AstraZeneca was cleared for emergency use along with Bharat Biotech's indigenous "Covaxin" earlier this month.

Serum chief executive Adar Poonawalla had said that the vaccine would be priced at about ₹ 1,000 rupees per dose when it is eventually available in the private market in India.

The government plans to cover 300 million people in the first part of the programme in which health workers, frontline staff such as police and people over the age of 50 and those with co-morbidities will be vaccinated first.

That will require 600 million doses and Serum, the world's largest manufacturer of vaccines, has stockpiled 50 million doses for immediate distribution.

India has said no restrictions on exports are in place, but has yet to formally announce export clearance despite pressure from Brazil that has sought 2 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine made in India.

The Oxford shot is expected to meet 90% of India's mass immunisation programme needs.

Put Farm Laws On Hold Or We Will Do It, Chief Justice Tells Government

NEW DELHI, Jan 11: The Supreme Court today asked the central government whether it would pause the three controversial laws at the core of massive farmer protests near Delhi, and suggested a committee for negotiations.

"Tell us whether you will put the laws on hold or else we will do it. What's the prestige issue here," the court said, saying it was disappointed by the government's handling of the crisis.

The court's sharp remarks came during a hearing on petitions challenging the farm laws and the farmer agitation at the Delhi borders. The court will pass order tomorrow on whether to stay the farm laws.

"Each one of us we will responsible if anything goes wrong. We don't want any injuries or blood on our hands," Chief Justice of India SA Bobde said in a series of stern comments to the government.

As the centre asked for more time, referring to ongoing negotiations, Justice Bobde said: "We don't see you are dealing with this issue effectively. We are taking a decision today. Who is going to be responsible for bloodshed if any?"

When Attorney General KK Venugopal questioned the "hurry to pass orders", the top judge snapped: "Don't lecture us on patience. We have given a long rope."

The top court suggested that after the implementation of the laws was stayed, the protest could continue. "But decide whether you want to carry on the protest on the same site or move to other," it said.

In the previous hearing, the Supreme Court had noted that there was no improvement on the ground, and it was told by the centre that "healthy discussions" were going on between the government and the unions over all outstanding issues.

"We have asked in the last hearing but no answer. The situation has gone worse. People have committed suicide. Why are the old and the women part of the agitation in this weather?" the Chief Justice questioned the government.

The court urged the centre to set up a committee and added: "If the government is not doing it on its own, hold the implementation, we will say."

Arguing for the government, the Attorney General said: "You can form a committee but don't stay the laws." He referred to past judgments stating courts can't hold a law without going into its unconstitutionality.

Venugopal also sought to highlight that "only farmers from two or three states are protesting", that there was no participation from southern or western India.

The government has, in eight rounds of talks with farmer unions, ruled out withdrawing the laws but has reasserted that it is open to amendments.

The farmers say they will accept nothing short of the government cancelling the laws, which they believe will kill their guaranteed earnings and benefit corporates. They have refused to buy the central government's argument that the laws will bring long-delayed reforms in the agriculture sector by doing away with middlemen and allowing farmers to sell anywhere in the country.

The next meeting will be held on Friday.

7 Indian States Confirm Bird Flu

NEW DELHI, Jan 10: Uttar Pradesh (UP) became the seventh state to confirm positive cases for bird flu or avian influenza on Saturday, 9 January.

Lakhs of birds have died, including poultry, ducks, crows and migratory birds, in the country in the past 10 days. The central government, along with the Department of Animal Husbandry and Dairying, has increased vigilance for potential hot spots after confirmed cases in six other states – Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana, Kerala and Gujarat – other than UP.

The Department of Animal Husbandry and Dairying have directed officials to monitor poultry and bird markets, zoos, waterbodies and other potential hotspots where the disease could spread. It has also said that PPE kits and accessories to cull birds and dispose waste safely must be made available.

The department further ordered immediate steps to control the spread of the virus, keeping in mind that it is transmissible to humans and domesticated animals.

Kerala: On 5 January, it issued a state-specific disaster alert after 23,857 birds died in Kottayam and Alappuzha districts. Over 1,700 ducks died at a farm in Kottayam.

Rajasthan: In the last one week, over 600 birds have died. The government asked for vigil and monitoring of the bird flocks where there have been confirmed cases in 16 of the 33 districts.

Himachal Pradesh: The state’s Forest Minister Rakesh Pathania on Wednesday said that at least 2,403 birds have died so far in the state and that the number is expected to grow.

Uttar Pradesh: The Kanpur Zoological Park was closed for visitors for 15 days as a suspected case of bird flu was detected in the zoo.

Haryana: Over 4 lakh chickens were found dead in the state over the past month.

Gujarat: 53 birds were found dead on the shore of the Kharo dam in Junagadh’s Bantva village. The samples sent to the lab tested positive for bird flu.

Madhya Pradesh: Over 1,100 deaths have been reported in 11 districts in the state, including Indore, Mandsaur and Agar Malwa.

What is the government doing to contain the spread of infection?

A 24-hour helpline has been set up for the assistance and monitoring of the situation in Delhi. A control room has been set up in New Delhi to take stock on a daily basis of preventive and control measures undertaken by the states on Wednesday.

Multi-disciplinary teams have been deployed on 4 January to Alappuzha and Kottayam districts of Kerala and Panchkula district of Haryana to implement the health ministry’s containment plan of the bird flu.

Over 1.60 lakh poultry birds were culled at five poultry farms in Haryana’s Panchkula district on Saturday.

Kerala Animal Husbandry Minister K Raju said, “So far, 37,654 birds have been culled in Alappuzha and 7,29 birds were culled in Kottayam,” according to ANI.

Which states have banned import of poultry products?

Punjab as imposed a complete ban on the import of live birds, including poultry and unprocessed meat, till 15 January.

Delhi has banned import of live birds on Saturday and closed down the city’s biggest poultry market in Ghazipur.

Import of poultry to Madhya Pradesh, especially chicken shipments, from southern states have banned for 10 days starting Wednesday, state Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan had announced.

Kerala on Wednesday announced sale of poultry, meat and eggs will not be allowed in the affected areas for the next 10 days, after declaring the outbreak as a state-specific disaster.

Which states are awaiting confirmation?

Other states are still awaiting confirmation of bird flu. In Punjab, four crows and a crane were found dead in Gurdaspur district on Thursday. The state has been declared a “controlled area” in view of the outbreak affecting birds in neighbouring states.

900 chickens have died in a farm in Maharashtra’s Parbhani district, and samples of the birds from Mumbai, Thane, Dhapoli, Beed, Nandurbar and Dhule districts are being tested for bird flu after reported death of crows in the areas.

Chhattisgarh’s Balod district saw many wild birds and chicken die, and the state has formed a rapid response team to probe the matter.

Over 35 crows were found death in Delhi, including 24 at a park in Jasola, and 10 ducks at Sanjay Lake. Hauz Khas Park, Dwarka Sector 9 Park, Hastsal Park and Sanjay Lake have been closed, and Delhi zoo has tightened it’s measures and disinfects the area twice a day, reported NDTV.

What is bird flu?

Avian influenza is the disease caused by infection with avian (bird) influenza (flu) Type A viruses. This is said to occur naturally among wild aquatic birds worldwide and can infect domestic poultry and other birds and animals, explained the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Can humans contract bird flu?

According to CDC, Avian flu viruses “do not normally infect human beings”. Such an infection is rare, says Mayo Clinic website, but adds however, that if infected, the virus “can be deadly”.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), bird flu can be transmitted from one person to another, but again this is a rarity. From 2003 to 2019, the WHO confirmed a total of 861 human cases of H5N1 worldwide, of which 455 deaths were recorded.

Haryana Chief Minister Cancels Farmers' Meet After Chaos By Protesters

Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar's visit to a village near Karnal and his meeting with a gathering of farmers got cancelled after a group pf farmers protesting against the Centre's agri-sector laws ransacked the venue.

The Haryana police had started the crackdown on the protesting farmers, when they tried to enter the Kemla village, using tear gas shells and water cannons. But the farmers had managed to enter the village and reach the venue of the meeting.

Cellphone footage showed many of them on the dais, shouting, throwing down chairs and tearing up posters.

The Chief Minister was scheduled to attend the gathering of farmers at the village and speak on the benefits of the Centre's three farm laws passed in September. Anticipating trouble, arrangements were made for heavy security and a number of police personnel were deployed at the village ahead of the meeting.

BJP-ruled Haryana had made headlines in November when it decided to stop the farmers on way to Delhi from across the state as well as those in Punjab.

For days, there have been reports and video footage of the police clashing with farmers, using batons, barricades, tear gas and water cannons.

Following the huge criticism, the Central government had decided to conduct a huge outreach programme to dispel "misconceptions" about the laws.

But over the last week, the Chief Minister's outreach programme had run into trouble in this area as farmers hardened their stance in Delhi.

On Friday, the local protesters had clashed with the villagers and the local BJP workers, who are promoting the visit. The face-off started when the villagers didn't allow the farmers to enter into the village to register their protest.

Today, Congress's Randeep Surjewala tweeted: "Respected Manohar Lal ji, please stop this pretence of Kisan Mahapanchayat in Kaimla village. By playing with the sentiments of those who provide us with food, please stop meddling with the law and order situation".

"If you want to have a conversation, have it with those who have been protesting for the last 46 days," read another tweet from Surjewala.

Deadlock between Indian Govt, Farmers' continues

NEW DELHI, Jan 8: An eighth round of talks between the centre and farmer leaders protesting the agriculture laws was held on Friday but it failed to break a months-long deadlock between the parties, who remain divided on two key issues - the repeal of the laws and a legal guarantee for MSP.

Sources said the centre (represented by Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar and Railways Minister Piyush Goyal) continues to insist the laws will benefit farmers. The farmers continue to demand the centre roll them back and allow state governments to enact their own rules.

The next round of talks will take place on January 15, less than two weeks before the farmers take out a tractor rally - on Republic Day - to enter Delhi.

"... no decision could be made. The centre urged farmer unions (to) give an option other than repealing... but no option was presented so the meeting concluded," Tomar, who met Home Minister Amit Shah before the talks, told reporters after the meeting.

The protesting farmers have given no indication of backing down, or even agreeing to the centre's request that the thousands camped around Delhi for several weeks return home.

"Our ghar wapsi (homecoming) can happen only if you do law wapsi (recall the laws)," a farmer leader said at Friday's meeting.

"It seems you (the centre) do not want to resolve the issue as talks have been happening for so many days. In that case, please give us a clear answer and we will go," another said, underlining the farmers' growing impatience with stagnant talks.

That impatience was further highlighted after placards appeared at the meeting, reading: "We will (succeed in repealing the laws) or die".

The previous rounds of talks finished on a similar note. After a meeting last month the farmers said the centre had indicated it would not repeal the laws, citing the laborious process required.

After Friday's talks one farmer leader said the centre was looking to "sweet talk" them.

"The centre is adamant it won't repeal the laws... talks are stuck. It doesn't look like there will be any results. It is possible that they will sweet talk us...," Sarvar Singh Pandhera said.

The stalemate has members from either side accusing the other of drawing out the talks.

On Thursday Punjab BJP leader Surjit Kumar Jyani hit out at "stubborn" farmers. "I think farmer unions don't want a solution. I think their plan is something else," he said.

Tens of thousands of farmers across the country are protesting against three agriculture laws that the centre says will reform the sector.

The centre says these laws will help farmers eliminate middlemen and sell at markets and prices of their choice. The farmers fear it will rob them of MSPs (minimum support price) and, by dismantling government-controlled mandis, or wholesale markers, leave them at the mercy of the corporates.

The centre's offer of a committee to mediate disputes has been rejected, as has their offer of a written (as opposed to the farmers' demand of a legal) guarantee for MSP.

Supreme Court clears redevelopment plan for Central Vista project

NEW DELHI, Jan 5: The Supreme Court on Tuesday cleared the road for the Central Vista project and allowed the government to go ahead with its construction in a near-unanimous decision.

The top court was hearing a slew of petitions that questioned the lack of transparency and objectivity in awarding clearances to the project by the government and the Central Vista Committee.

A three-judge bench, headed by justice AM Khanwilkar and comprising Justice Dinesh Maheshwari and justice Sanjiv Khanna, pronounced its decision on petitions focussing on various aspects of the project relating to grant of environmental clearance, violation of statutory and municipal laws, conservation of heritage, change of land use under the Delhi Development Act, and manner of inviting public hearing and objections involved with the Central Vista Redevelopment plan.

On the Centre’s grand redevelopment, the bench found itself unanimous on the aspect of notice inviting bid, appointment and consultant for the project.

The Supreme Court, while giving the verdict said the heritage conservation committee’s approval will be needed when construction work for Central Vista will begin.

The court has also directed project proponents to get approval from the heritage committee. The redevelopment project proponents will set up smog towers as an integral part of the central vista project, the top court ordered.

Talks fail to cut ice between Govt, Farm leaders

NEW DELHI, Jan 4: Shortly after the seventh round of talks between the farmers and the government ended without a breakthrough, Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) spokesperson Rakesh Tikait said on Monday that until the three contentious farm laws were withdrawn, the protesters won’t go home.

“Discussion took place on our demands -- repeal of the three laws and MSP... Kanoon wapasi nahi, to ghar wapasi nahi (We will not go home until the laws are withdrawn),” he said.

Tikait’s statement comes after the Centre ruled out any possibility of repealing the laws at the talks, adding that it can look into any clause the farmers had issues with. The Centre was represented by Union ministers Narendra Singh Tomar, Piyush Goyal and Som Prakash.

Union agriculture minister Narendra Tomar said that he is “hopeful” that a conclusion will be found in the next round of talks which will be held on January 8.

“We wanted farmer unions to discuss three laws clause-wise. We could not reach any solution as farmer unions remained adamant on the repeal of the laws,” the minister told reporters after the meeting at Vigyan Bhawan in Delhi.

“Looking at today’s discussion, I hope that we will have a meaningful discussion during our next meeting and we will come to a conclusion,” he added. The minister also asserted that efforts need to be made from both sides for a solution to be reached. “Taali dono haathon se bajti hai (both hands are needed to clap).”

Farmers have been protesting at the gates of Delhi since November 26 last year against the newly enacted 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.

Now, the next round of talks will take place on January 8 at 2 pm. The leaders of the farm unions will have their own meeting on Tuesday to decide their next course of action.

Thousands of farmers, mainly from Punjab, Haryana and western Uttar Pradesh, are protesting at Singhu, Tikri and Ghazipur border points of Delhi demanding the repeal of the three laws passed in September. They have stayed put despite heavy rains and water-logging at protest sites over the last couple of days, besides severe cold weather conditions prevailing in and around the national capital.

Last month, the government had sent a draft proposal to the protesting farmer unions, suggesting some amendments to the new laws and a written assurance on the MSP procurement system. The government has ruled out a repeal of the three agriculture laws.

Farmers’ lives lost due to govt’s harsh attitude: Sonia

NEW DELHI, Jan 3: Congress chief Sonia Gandhi on Sunday hit out at the Narendra Modi government for not heeding the demands of farmers to repeal three laws aimed at opening up trade in agriculture that they say will harm the interests of cultivators and hurt their livelihoods.

“In this biting cold and rain, our farmers have been protesting on the borders of Delhi for 39 days now. Their plight is a concern for all the citizens and I,” Gandhi said.

“More than 50 farmers have lost their lives because of the government’s harsh attitude towards the protests. Some have even committed suicide. Neither has their decision moved the Modi government or any of its ministers, nor have they uttered a word of consolation. I offer my tribute to those who have passed away and prayers and strength to their families.”

Gandhi’s statement came a day after a farmer on the Uttar Pradesh-Delhi border allegedly committed suicide because the government did not heed farmers’ demands. The farmers have demanded a repeal of the three controversial farm laws.In the latest round of talks held on December 30, the government has offered to set up a panel to examine the laws, but it has stayed firm on its decision to not repeal them.

The three farm laws passed in September essentially change the way India’s farmers do business by creating free markets, as opposed to a network of decades-old, government marketplaces, allowing traders to stockpile essential commodities for future sales and laying down a national framework for contract farming.

Together, the laws will allow big corporations and global supermarket chains to buy directly from farmers, bypassing decades-old regulations. Farmers say the reforms will enable large corporations to dictate prices and exploit them.

Gandhi said that the government’s inaction was tantamount to arrogance and it must recognize that the true meaning of democracy is to protect the rights and interests of the farmers and workers.

“Ever since independence, this is the first arrogant government to have come to power that doesn’t care for the farmers who feed, let alone the citizens,” Gandhi said. “It is evident that the government is practising a policy of “tire them and drive them away,” But our farmers will not bend before them. The government must let go of its ego and repeal the three farm laws and bring an end to the protests. The true meaning of democracy is protecting the interests of the farmers and workers, the Modi government should learn that.”

Attacking the Centre, senior party leader Rahul Gandhi also tweeted: “The country is facing a situation like Champaran once again. Back then, it was the British that were in cahoots with the company, now it is the Modi government. But every agitating farmer-worker is a satyagrahi, who will secure his rights.”

Police teargas Haryana farmers marching towards Delhi

CHANDIGARH, Jan 3: Haryana Police on Sunday evening fired teargas canisters to thwart a march of a group of agitating farmers towards Delhi at Masani barrage in Rewari district.

Farmers first broke police barricades put up near Bhudla Sangwari village and then started moving towards Delhi in the evening.

They have been camping at the service lane of the Delhi-Jaipur highway for the past few days, police said.

When the farmers’ group reached Masani barrage where the barricades were put up, police used teargas to disperse them.

“We have stopped them (farmers) at Masani,” Rewari Superintendent of Police Abhishek Jorwal said over the phone.

On December 31, a group of farmers had broken police barricades at the Shahjahanpur border with Rajasthan, trying to move towards the national capital.

Police had then too resorted to teargas shelling as well as using water cannons to stop them.

A large number of farmers from Rajasthan, Haryana and some other places have been protesting on the Jaipur-Delhi highway for the past several days, demanding the repeal of new farm laws.

They have been camping at the Rajasthan-Haryana border point after police had earlier stopped them from proceeding towards Delhi as part of their “Delhi Chalo” march against the new farm laws.

On Republic Day, Protesting Farmers Promise 'Kisaan Parade' In Delhi

NEW DELHI, Jan 2: Farmers protesting the contentious agricultural laws near Delhi's borders today threatened to hold a tractor rally - "Kisaan Parade" - in the national capital on Republic Day, just two days before the next round of talks with the centre to resolve nearly the deadlock.

Thousands have been camping on the outskirts of the city since late November, demanding repeal of the three laws. The protesters said they chose Republic Day "because it represents the supremacy of the people of India", and also January 26 will mark the completion of two months of the biggest protests in the farm sector in years.

"We are going to hold discussions (with government) on January 4 (Monday). The Supreme Court is going to hear the matter on January 5. If demands are not met, we will hold a tractor march on Kundli-Manesar-Palwal Expressway in Haryana on January 6. We will protest for 15 days. On January 23, Subhash Chandra Bose's birthday, we will hold a protest outside the Governor's House," Dr Darshanpal, one of the leaders, told the reporters at a press conference held by a seven-member coordination committee of the Samyukt Kisan Morcha.

"On January 26, we will hold a massive rally in Delhi with tricolours on tractors. We give a call for countrywide protests at all headquarters (of the unions)," he added. The farmers' parade will take place after the annual Republic Day parade, the union said in a press statement.

"We intend to be peaceful and we told long ago to the government during our talks that it has only two options - either repeal the three central farm acts or use force on us to evict us," the press statement read.

The farmers' leaders also alleged that the government is misleading them over the minimum support price for their produce. "The government is misleading us... They're saying the MSP won't be abolished. But we're demanding that a law should be created for it... it's our right," another farmer leader Gurnam Singh Chadhuni told reporters.

Farmers Warn Of Tractor Rally If Demands Not Met In Jan 4 Talks

NEW DELHI, Jan 1: The protesting farmers will intensify their agitation at Delhi borders if the centre declines their demands of a repeal of the three agriculture laws and giving legal status to the minimum support price guarantee in the next round of talks, scheduled on January 4, politician Yogendra Yadav, speaking on behalf of the farmers' unions, informed on Friday.

The decision was taken today at a meeting of the joint front of 40 farmers' unions that has been leading the protests.

"The government hasn't budged on two of our demands - repealing the laws and legal status to MSP. We will intensify the protests. If nothing comes out of the January 4 meeting, then we will take out a tractor rally on the GT-Karnal road on January 6," Yadav said at a press conference at Singhu border, the epicentre of the protests.

"If the government doesn't agree to our demands, we will start marching towards Delhi from Shahjahanpur border next week," he added.

After the sixth round of the farmer-centre talks on Wednesday, Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar had said that the two sides had arrived at an "agreement" on two of the four demands.

However, sources say, no progress had been made on the main demands of farmers -- the repeal of the laws and a legal guarantee for MSP.

On Friday, at the press conference, farmer leaders alleged that only five percent of the issues raised by them have so far been discussed in meetings with the government.

"If the January 4 meeting with the government fails to end the deadlock, we will announce dates for shutting all malls, petrol pumps in Haryana," said farmer leader Vikas.

Farmers from Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and several states have been protesting the three laws in and around the national capital for over a month. They fear the laws will make them susceptible to exploitation by corporate houses. They also claim that through these laws, the centre wants to scrap the minimum support price guarantee.

The government, however, says the laws are not aimed at ending the existing system but providing better avenues to farmers to sell their crops. It has promised that the MSP system will not be scrapped.

 



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