Farmers To Formally Call Off Protest Today, Centre Agrees To Demands

Farmers Protest: On Tuesday, sources said the centre had indicated it is willing to offer a written assurance on a number of the farmers' demands, including a committee on MSP.

Farmers and opposition parties have been protesting the centre's farm laws since November last year

New Delhi:

Farmers who have spent the last 15 months protesting the farm laws and pushing for a legal guarantee for MSP, are on the brink of scaling down their agitation after accepting a second draft proposal from the government, which includes assurances on MSP and withdrawal of police cases.

"We have accepted the revised draft given by the centre over our demands in regard to farmers agitation against three farm laws. We will hold a meeting again tomorrow, as soon we receive a formal letter from centre. Protest is still underway," farmer leader Gurnam Singh Charuni said on Wednesday.

Thursday's meeting will be at 12 pm, when a final decision on reducing the intensity of protests - which could include the thousands of farmers camped out around Delhi going back home - will be taken.

The stand-down comes after a stunning series of U-turns by the government - from repealing the farm laws to withdrawing police cases against the farmers and, crucially, offering a written guarantee to consider their long-standing demand to make MSP, or minimum support price, official.

Earlier on Wednesday, a panel of five senior farmer leaders met in Delhi to discuss a fresh proposal offered by the government, which included assurances that police cases against thousands of farmers - in connection with the farm laws agitations and over stubble burning - will be immediately suspended.

The government sent one offer on Tuesday evening that included assurances of a committee being formed to examine the MSP demand, but that required the farmers to halt their protest before the police cases were dropped - something the farmers indicated they were reluctant to do.

On the question of the constitution of the MSP committee, the farmers have emphasised only members of the Samyukt Kisan Morcha (in addition to officials from the centre, concerned states and agricultural experts) can be chosen.

This is to counter the inclusion of those farmers who supported the farm laws.

And on the question of the contentious Electricity Amendment Bill, the farmers have exacted a promise from the government that this will only be tabled after a discussion with them.

The farmers had also underlined the need for financial compensation (to the families of the, reportedly, more than 700 growers who died in the protests) along the lines of that offered by the Congress government in Punjab; the state has given Rs 5 lakh and a job to a family member.

Both Haryana and Uttar Pradesh have agreed, in principle, to this demand.

Last week, the farmers said Home Minister Amit Shah spoke to them (via a phone call) to discuss outstanding issues; this was after their protests forced the recall of the farm laws.

All of this represents a huge climbdown from the government, which has furiously defended the farm laws - even to the extent of calling protesting farmers "terrorists" and "Khalistanis".

The repeal of the farm laws has been seen by some as a politically expedient decision for the BJP, which faces an image problem in poll-bound Uttar Pradesh and cannot afford to ignore farmers' votes there and in Punjab and Uttarakhand. Both latter states are also voting next year.

When Prime Minister Modi last month offered farmers an "apology" and said the farm laws would be scrapped, farmers rejoiced but underlined their determination to continue protests till the MSP issue was resolved to their satisfaction.

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