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Farmers Call off Year-long Protests After Government’s Assurance

The Union government and the Samyukt Kisan Morcha (SKM), a coalition of farmer unions, on Thursday, reached a deal on a raft of demands that had sparked year-long protests by farmers in a major political challenge to the Modi regime.

Ayushi Raina
Farmers Call off Year-long Protests
Farmers Call off Year-long Protests

On Thursday, the Union government and the Samyukt Kisan Morcha (SKM), a coalition of farmer unions, achieved an agreement on a slew of demands that had sparked year-long farmer demonstrations in a significant political challenge to the Modi regime. 

The SKM approved the Centre's proposals in a letter signed by Union Agriculture Secretary Sanjay Aggarwal to resolve critical agrarian concerns raised by it. This prepared the way for SKM to call off one of the country's largest farmer protests in decades. 

The SKM's next meeting is scheduled for January 15th, according to its leaders. Protesters would take out victory processions from their camps on Delhi's borders to their villages on December 11, it was announced. 

The compromise between the Centre and protesting agricultural unions came after two days of back-channel negotiations in which proposals were passed back and forth, as well as 11 rounds of negotiations that hit a deadlock on January 22. 

Tens of thousands of farmers squatted on highways across states for 14 months to oppose three farm reform laws enacted by the Modi administration in September 2020. Thousands of people have also set up virtual protest camps at Delhi's borders, clogging traffic. 

Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced on November 19 that his government will abolish the controversial laws, and Parliament repealed them on November 29. Farmers were able to re-engage with the government when the laws were repealed. 

The Centre issued drafting proposals to resolve the standoff on December 7, to which the farm body proposed amendments. 

On Thursday, the SKM signed off on a final letter from the Centre outlining critical next steps. "Today is a victory day for farmers, who led the country's largest movement since the freedom movement. Victory to those who feed the nation," said Daljit Randhawa, a wheat farmer from Punjab's Sangrur who has been camped for months on the outskirts of the national capital. 

The proposals contained in the agricultural secretary's letter were unanimously accepted by the five-member team of farm leaders authorized to make decisions on the SKM's behalf. 

In the letter, the Centre stated that it will form a panel to "guarantee that all farmers get minimum support prices (MSP)."  It also stated that current levels of federal procurement of farm produce at guaranteed prices would not be reduced. 

"This alleviated farmers' major concern that the government will reduce or discontinue purchasing farm produce at MSP." said Yogendra Yadav, Swaraj India's leader and a member of the SKM coordination committee. 

Farmers have demanded a law to guarantee minimum prices for 22-odd commodities. Distress selling of farm produce and price volatility in non-cereals have been a major gripe among cultivators. 

The letter from the Union government also claimed that the governments of Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, and Haryana agreed to remove all complaints filed against farmers and their supporters during the protest with immediate effect, which was a major demand of the SKM. 

Cases against farmers filed by central law enforcement agencies, union territories, and the Delhi Police will also be dismissed immediately, according to the Centre. 

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