Seventh round of talks between farmers, govt on Monday; both sides hopeful of positive...

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The protesting farmers and the government will hold the next round of talks on Monday to try and find a solution to end the stir which has been going on for more than a month. This will be the seventh round of talks between the two sides.

Six rounds of talks have so far failed to end the deadlock, with the farmers sticking to their demand for repeal of the three farm laws passed by Parliament in September. While a consensus was reached at the last round of talks on issues related to the environment and Electricity Act, the deadlock continued on the two main demands, legal assurance on Minimum Support Price (MSP) and complete rollback of the three farm laws.

The farmers launched their protest at three Delhi border points - Singhu, Tikri and Ghazipur - on November 26, and have since then braved water cannons, cold wave and now rain. The continuous downpour led to water-logging at agitation venues on Sunday and waterproof tents did not help much, according to the protesters.

“The situation is very bad at protest sites due to rain which has caused water-logging. There is so much cold after the rains, but the government is not able to see our misery,” farmer leader Abhimanyu Kohar, a member of Sankyukt Kisan Morcha, said.

Gurwinder Singh, who is camping at Singhu border, said that the weather will not dampen the spirit of farmers who have been protesting for over a month.

“Despite facing several problems, we will not move from here until our demands are met,” he said.

Chilla and Ghazipur, two important border points near Delhi, remained closed due to the protests on Sunday. “Traffic Alert The Chilla & Ghazipur Borders are closed for traffic coming from Noida & Ghaziabad to Delhi because of farmer protests. Please take alternate route for coming to Delhi via Anand Vihar, DND, Apsara, Bhopra & Loni Borders,” the Delhi Traffic Police wrote on Twitter.

“We are living on the streets in such harsh weather conditions away from our family. We’re hopeful that the government will accept our demands tomorrow,” a protesting farmer at the Ghazipur border told news agency ANI.

The Samyukt Kisan Morcha held a press conference on Saturday where its leaders threatened to march to Delhi on January 26 with their tractors, trolleys and other vehicles if their demands are not met.

The opposition parties, including Congress, are supporting the farmers’ agitation. Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Sunday urged the Narendra Modi government to follow the “raj dharma” by repealing the farm laws.

“There is still time for the Modi government to renounce its arrogance of power and immediately withdraw all three black laws unconditionally and end the agitation of the farmers who are dying in cold and rain. This can be raj dharma and a true tribute to the farmers who passed away,” Sonia Gandhi said in a statement.

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi compared the ongoing farmers’ stir with the Champaran agitation during the British rule, and said every farmer-labourer part of the current movement is a ‘satyagrahi’ and they will take their rights back.

Meanwhile, Union minister of state for agriculture Kailash Choudhary expressed hope that a solution will be found at the discussions tomorrow and the farmers’ agitation may end. “We are talking to farmers who are protesting. We are hopeful that there will be a positive result out of talks which will be held tomorrow. We hope that their issues will be resolved in discussions tomorrow and protest too may end tomorrow,” Chaudhary was quoted as saying by ANI.

The government has presented these laws as major agriculture sector reforms aimed at helping farmers and increasing their income, but the protesting unions fear that the new legislations will leave them at the mercy of big corporates by weakening the MSP and mandi systems.

The three contentious farm laws are: The 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.

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