Protesting farmers agree to fresh talks with govt. over contentious farm laws

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After the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi invited farmer protest leaders to a dialogue on Thursday, leaders of the farmers’ unions have agreed to meet ministers on Tuesday (Dec. 29), for a possible seventh round of talks.

The farmers’ protests in India have been going on for a month now, provoked by new agricultural reform laws passed by the government in September.

The government says the laws, will unshackle farmers from having to sell their produce only at regulated wholesale markets. It argues farmers will gain if large traders, retailers and food processors can buy directly from producers, bypassing antiquated wholesale markets.

But farmers’ unions still insist they want the laws repealed, a coalition of unions called Samyukta Kisan Morcha said on Saturday in a letter to the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare.

Tens of thousands of farmers have camped out on national highways on the outskirts of Delhi, demanding the government withdraw the laws that they fear will eventually dismantle regulated markets and stop the government buying rice and wheat at guaranteed prices.

Farmers’ leaders would also in Tuesday’s meeting oppose plans to impose stiff penalties for the burning of crop stubble, a major source of air pollution, according to the farmers’ letter.

Mr. Modi has dismissed the farmers’ protests as motivated by his political opponents, while the main opposition Congress party leader Rahul Gandhi has accused the prime minister of introducing the laws to help a few business people. (Source: The Straits Times)

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