The row over the contentious farm bills should be sorted through talks between the farmers and the Central and the state governments, the Punjab and Haryana High Court said today. The court said it was the “collective responsibility” of the two governments “to hold as extensive discussions as are possible and at the highest level of the respective government machineries with the protesting farmer organisations”.
The court also said the two governments have to inform it about the outcome.
Earlier today, a meeting between 30 farmers’ groups and the Central government ended in chaos over the absence of agriculture minister Narendra Singh Tomar or his junior minister.
Shouting slogans, the farmers tore up copies of the laws outside the meeting venue in Delhi and declared that they would continue the agitation.
“No proper discussion took place. Neither Union agriculture minister nor junior ministers were present to hear our concerns. We asked why the minister is not meeting us, why the government is playing double standards by calling us here and ministers holding virtual meetings in Punjab. There was no proper response,” Darshan Pal, member of the coordination committee of 29 farmers” organisations, told PTI after the meeting.
Since there was no response from Agriculture Secretary Sanjay Agrawal, who was chairing the meeting, farmers’ organisations decided to boycott the meeting, he said.
Chief Minister Amarinder Singh and opposition Shiromani Akali Dal chief Sukhbir Singh Badal said it was “insult” to framers that the Central ministers skipped the meeting.
Led by Amarinder Singh, the Punjab cabinet, meanwhile, decided to officially reject the farm laws today. A special assembly session will be held for this on October 19, the state cabinet decided.
The farmers in Punjab and Haryana, the grain bowl of the country, have been the loudest in denouncing the three farm sector laws, which the Central government said were big-ticket reforms in the farm sector.
Over the last months, they have blocked roads and rail tracks, set vehicles on fire and even clashed with the police.
Responding to the petition that asked that political rallies involving participation of over 100 people be banned, the court said if farmers’ protests have to continue they will have to be toned down so as to inconvenience as few people as possible.
Under the new laws, farmers are allowed to sell produce anywhere in the country and deal directly with big corporates. But the changes have alarmed the farmers. They fear that the new system will put them at the mercy of the corporates, and with time, phase out the agricultural wholesale APMC markets where they are at least assured of getting the Minimum Support Price.