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Team of 3 Union ministers meets Punjab farmer leaders, another round to be held soon

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NewsDrum Desk
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Chandigarh, Feb 8 (PTI) A three-member team of Union ministers on Thursday held a detailed discussion here with the leaders of farmer organisations which plan 'Delhi Chalo' march to press for their demands, including a law to guarantee a minimum support price for crops.

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After the meeting, the farmer leaders said the Central ministers have assured them that they would hold second round of the meeting soon. However, the farmer leaders said their proposed 'Delhi Chalo' march on February 13 still stands.

Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann, who coordinated with the farmer leaders for arranging the meeting, also participated in it.

Mann, however, said the ministers and farmer leaders agreed on many things including withdrawal of cases registered against farmers during the previous agitation against the now-repealed farm laws and strict punishment for fake seeds and chemicals.

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The Central team comprised Union ministers Piyush Goyal, Arjun Munda and Nityanand Rai, who flew down to Chandigarh to reach out to farmer leaders.

The Samyukta Kisan Morcha (Non-Political) and the Kisan Mazdoor Morcha had announced 'Delhi Chalo' march by more than 200 farmers' unions on February 13 to press the Centre for accepting several demands, including enactment of a law to guarantee a minimum support price (MSP) for crops.

Speaking to reporters after the meeting, SKM (Non-Political) leader Jagjit Singh Dallewal said the meeting with the Union ministers was held in a positive atmosphere.

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"We presented our demands with facts," said Dallewal, claiming that when Prime Minister Narendra Modi was the Gujarat chief minister, he had constituted a committee which had recommended the legal guarantee to the MSP.

"We also put forward how farmers were getting burdened with debt. The Centre heard us and they (Union ministers) said they will discuss the facts which were presented along with their demands," said Dallewal.

On farmers' proposed 'Delhi Chalo' march on February 13, Dallewal said it still stands.

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"The Centre assured that they will soon hold another meeting with them. If the Centre resolves our issues by holding a meeting before February 13, then it is right. Otherwise, our February 13 programme still stands," said Dallewal.

He further said that they will share the proceedings of the meeting with other farmer bodies which were associated with them.

CM Mann said the Union ministers and farmer leaders reached consensus over various issues during the first round of deliberations.

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A general consensus emerged on rolling back the cases registered against farmers during the agitation against the now-repealed farm laws, Mann told reporters.

He said the deliberations were held in a congenial atmosphere and the Union ministers gave in-principle approval to sympathetically consider the demands of farmers.

Mann said exemplary punishment was sought against the manufacturers of the spurious seeds so that interests of the food growers is safeguarded, adding that the issue of paddy straw burning was also vehemently raised.

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Mann said it was the first round of the meeting. "Being the CM of Punjab, it is my responsibility to keep the side of farmers and I put their side as a lawyer. If any need arises to hold a meeting with farmers at Punjab level, it will be done," he added.

Replying to a question on farmers' demand on MSP, Mann said, "It was a big demand." Since policy decisions cannot be taken here, the ministers said that they will hold a detailed discussion on this matter, said Mann.

Thanking the Union government and farmer leaders for coming on the table to discuss issues, the CM said this is the right platform for solving the issues.

"We do not want that we should again take tractors, face barricades and water cannons for acceptance of demands," he said.

Mann said there is a scope for holding more meetings, expressing hope more such discussions will take place in the larger interests of the farmers and the people.

The CM said he batted for giving major push to the crop diversification and said that India imports pulses from countries like Mozambique and others whereas if farmers get remunerative prices then they can produce these pulses here.

Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Committee general secretary Sarwan Singh Pandher said, "If the Centre wants to continue to have dialogue with us, our doors are always open. We want resolution of all our issues with dialogue." Pandher said he apprised the ministers that the Haryana police was making arrangements for barricading at the Punjab and Haryana borders and allegedly harassing farmers.

On their demands, Pandher said, "If the prime minister wants, the law on guaranteeing MSP can be framed now as Parliament session is going on. It is a matter of will power." He further said farmers were making preparations for the 'Delhi Chalo' march on February 13.

Besides a legal guarantee for the MSP, the farmers are also demanding the implementation of the Swaminathan Commission's recommendations, pensions for farmers and farm labourers, farm debt waiver, withdrawal of police cases and "justice" for victims of the Lakhimpur Kheri violence.

In 2020, a large number of farmers from Punjab and nearby areas of Ambala gathered at the Shambhu border and broke police barriers to march towards Delhi.

Farmers, mainly from Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh, had held a year-long protest on Delhi's border points -- Singhu, Tikri and Ghazipur -- against the three now-repealed farm laws. PTI CHS VSD KVK KVK KVK

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