Farmer unions in India are rejecting the latest government action to change controversial new laws that have sparked protests.
New Delhi, India – Indian farmers’ unions have rejected the government’s latest proposal to change controversial new farm laws and have warned they will step up their protests if their demands are not met.
Wednesday’s warning came just hours after the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government sent a written proposal to the farmers’ unions, outlining a series of amendments, including written assurances for the minimum price of support (MSP), one of the main demands of the protesting farmers.
Other government assurances included the abandonment of the electricity amendment bill opposed by farmers and allowing them to go to court in the event of a dispute.
India’s Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar also said in a tweet on Wednesday that the Agricultural Market Committee (APMC) Mandis – a government-regulated agricultural market system – will not be dismantled.
But the farmers categorically rejected the proposals and called them an “insult”.
“We unanimously rejected the government’s proposal. It is far from what we demanded. It’s an insult to us, ”Farmer Chief Jagmohan Singh told Al Jazeera by phone from the Singhu border.
“Our demand is the complete revocation of the three laws. We don’t want any amendments, ”he said.
Farmers say the three farm laws passed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government, which deregulate crop prices, will hurt their livelihoods and only benefit big business.
Farmers’ unions called nationwide protests on Monday and threatened to block the New Delhi-Jaipur and New Delhi-Agra highways on Saturday.
“If the government does not accept our demands, we will intensify our protest and block more highways leading to the capital,” Singh added.
‘The lost faith’
On Tuesday, protesting farmers launched a general strike across the country to demand the removal of controversial farm laws.
Thousands of farmers, mainly from the state of Punjab and Haryana – known as the grain bowl of India – have blocked key highways connecting New Delhi to neighboring states for more than two weeks.
BJP leaders, including Modi, have defended the laws, saying they will boost private investment in the agricultural sector and increase farm incomes.
Five opposition leaders from different political parties met with Indian President Ram Nath Kovind to discuss the issue on Wednesday.
They gave their support to the farmers and said they told the president the laws should be repealed.
Opposition leader and former Congress President Rahul Gandhi told reporters after meeting with Kovind that it was unacceptable to pass the bills without any consultation with farmers or the opposition.
“The way these bills were passed, we see it as an insult to our farmers,” he said.
“Farmers have lost faith in the government and they believe the government is not acting in their best interests, which is why [thousands] of them are on the street.
“We have informed the President that it is absolutely essential that these invoices be taken back.”
So far, six rounds of negotiations have taken place between the government and the farmers’ unions, but the deadlock persists.
A group of farmer representatives met with India’s Interior Minister Amit Shah on Tuesday evening, but that meeting also failed because farmers honored their demands.
A meeting between peasant leaders and government ministers scheduled for Wednesday in New Delhi was canceled by the farmers.
BJP spokesperson Syed Zafar Islam told Al Jazeera that talks were the only way to resolve the dispute.
“We have always worked for the welfare of farmers and we will continue to work for their welfare,” he said.
“We call on farmers to keep calm and peace and this issue will be definitely resolved through discussions and talks.”