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Kerala Kaumudi Online
Thursday, 25 February 2021 2.28 AM IST

On eve of talks, farmers power up their demands

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NEW DELHI: Ahead of their fresh round of talks with the Centre on Wednesday, farm unions opposed to the new agri laws revised one of their four demands — replacing “necessary changes” to the proposed electricity amendment bill with a call to withdraw it altogether.


In a letter to the government, while formally accepting its invitation for the seventh round of talks, the 40 agitating unions on Tuesday claimed their earlier stance over the electricity bill was due to a “mistake”.

The communication baffled agriculture ministry officials, who saw it as an instance of goalposts being moved, making resolution of the standoff tougher. If the latest talks don’t result in any progress, both the Centre and the unions seem prepared to sit it out.

Agriculture minister Narendra Singh Tomar and railways and food & consumer affairs minister Piyush Goyal met home minister Amit Shah. They are learnt to have discussed the government’s strategy for the talks.

Though sources claimed the meeting of the group of ministers was meant for routine discussion on issues of prices and availability of essential commodities, both Tomar and Goyal will attend the Agri talks on Wednesday. So far, both the sides have held six meetings, including the last one on December 8, with Shah in attendance.

Though the Electricity (Amendment) Bill had not been a major sticking point with the Centre ready to consider changes, the call for its withdrawal makes it a more complicated issue.

The Centre had on Monday invited the unions for talks, saying the agriculture ministry is committed to find “logical solutions to relevant matters” that could be acceptable to all. Responding, the unions on Tuesday wrote that the talks must be held on their four specific agenda points in a certain order to find the solutions.


The agenda points include "modalities to repeal" the three central farm laws, mechanism to ensure "legal guarantee" to higher MSP, keeping farmers outside the ambit of penalty provision on stubble burning and now a mechanism to "withdraw" the proposed Electricity Amendment Bill to protect the "interests of farmers".

“Farmer organisations have once again requested that the government must focus on the demands raised instead of reacting to any imaginary demand. The discussions must be held in the sequence set out in their two letters (December 26 and December 29),” said Avik Saha, national convenor of Jai Kisan Andolan and general secretary of the farm groups umbrella body, AIKSCC.


Asked about the change in the context of fourth demand relating to the Electricity (Amendment) Bill in Tuesday’s letter, Saha told TOI the unions merely clarified the position which they held for long.

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TAGS: FARM BILLS, FARMERS, WEDNESDAY, CENTRE, ELECTRICITY AMENDMENT, FARM UNIONS, PIYUSH GOYAL, 40 UNIONS, MISTAKE, AMIT SHAH, AIKSCC
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