Centre, farmers to hold sixth round of talks today: Here’s all you need to know

The Centre will hold the sixth round of talks on Wednesday as part of attempts to end the agitation by farmers, who have encircled the Capital demanding scrapping of three laws enacted in September to liberalise the sector. Here is all you need to know about the protests, the talks and the laws:

• The fresh talks are being held after agriculture secretary Sanjay Agrawal wrote a letter to farm leaders on Monday in response to their e-mail on December 26 in which they agreed to restart negotiations.

• 40 leaders of the Samyukt Kisan Morcha, a platform of over 400 farm organisations involved in the month-long agitation, have been invited for the talks.

• Three Union ministers Narendra Singh Tomar, Piyush Goyal and Som Parkash are likely to represent the government.

• The farmers have stuck to their demand that talks must be oriented towards a repeal of the laws.

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• The laws essentially change the way India’s farmers do business by creating free markets as opposed to a network of decades-old government marketplaces.

• They allow traders to stockpile essential commodities for future sales and lay down a national framework for contract farming.

• The laws will allow big corporations and global supermarket chains to buy directly from farmers, bypassing decades-old regulations.

• Farmers say the reforms would make them vulnerable to exploitation by big corporations and erode the government’s procurement system whereby the government buys staples such as wheat and rice at guaranteed rates known as minimum support prices (MSP).

• The farm unions want “mechanisms to be adopted to make remunerative MSP recommended by the National Farmers’ Commission a legally guaranteed entitlement for all farmers and all agricultural commodities.” The demands are the trickiest and are likely to be a test of the fate of negotiations.

• The government has made desperate attempts to restart negotiations with the unions, but it is not prepared to scrap its reformist agenda.

• The government has proposed a set of concessions and amendments including greater oversight of proposed free markets and a written assurance on continuing the MSP.

• The farmers also want amendments in an ordinance to completely exclude farmers from any penalties for crop-residue burning, a major cause of pollution.

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