Punjab farmers will continue blocking railway tracks and roads till their demands are met. (File)
Farmers unions in Punjab have accepted the central government's invitation to discuss the three recently enacted farm laws, against which they have been protesting for months. "A seven member committee will attend tomorrow's meeting," Balbir Singh Rajewal, leader of BKU Rajewal said on accepting the second invitation for talks. The first invitation was extended a week ago, but was turned down as farmers insisted on the Agriculture Minister or the Prime Minister being in attendance.
The decision was taken after members of the 30-odd unions met today to create consensus and discuss a plan of action. But, farmers have said they will continue blocking railway tracks and roads - which has hit supply of essential goods - till their demands are met.
However, the Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Committee, one of the most prominent farmers' unions in the state, has objected to the government not extending an invitation to their Haryana counterparts and has refused to be a part of the discussion.
According to the union's Sarwan Pandher, they also believe the talks would not bear fruit. "The Prime Minister has repeatedly called these laws "historic" on all major platforms. Why would he accommodate our demands?" Mr Pandher said.
It was not immediately known if any other unions have boycotted the talks. This would be the first time that the central government would be consulting protesting farmers from Punjab directly on the controversial laws.
Sources have said Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar, who met farm experts and a section of stakeholders today along with Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, is expected to attend the October 14 meeting.
The government has maintained that these laws would help farmers increase their income and free them from the interference of middlemen.
Under the new laws, the farmers are allowed to sell produce anywhere in the country and deal directly with big corporations - a situation that the farmers have found alarming. Most feel they would be left at the mercy of the big corporates and will not get even the minimum support price for their produce with the phasing out of agricultural wholesale APMC markets.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has made several verbal assurances that neither the MSP nor government procurement will be stopped, but the farmers remain unconvinced.
Meanwhile, several state governments where Congress is in power have been trying to convene special assembly sessions to bypass changes to the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services; Farmers Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill; and Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill.