Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Tomar sent an eight page letter to the protesting farmers

News Desk: An eight-page letter from Union agriculture minister Narendra Tomar marked the beginning of the BJP’s big outreach programme for the protesting farmers today. The letter was released after a party meeting that was attended by its key leaders — Union minister Amit Shah, his cabinet colleagues Piyush Goyal, Nirmala Sitharaman, Mr Tomar and party chief JP Nadda.

“Narendra Tomar Ji has expressed his feelings by writing a letter to farmer brothers and sisters, trying to have a polite dialogue. I request all the contributors to read it. The countrymen are also urged to make it reach to as many people as possible,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted.

In the letter, the government spoke of keeping communication open with the farmers, but insisted that it would not entertain any opposition agenda.

Reiterating that the opposition is misleading the farmers about the agricultural reforms, the government said, “In the last 20 to 25 years, show any statement of any farmer leader or organisation that said farmers should not have an option to get better price for their produce”.

The farm laws, billed as big reforms in the sector, are meant to increase farmers’ incomes by freeing them from the clutches of middlemen and allowing them to sell produce in any market anywhere in the country.

The farmers fear that the laws will eventually edge out the agricultural markets and the guaranteed prices offered by the government.

The letter also assured the farmers that the agricultural markers or mandis where they get Minimum Support Price for their produce will remain. The APMC is also being strengthened, the letter said.

It also addressed the other concern of farmers that their land can be taken away. “Farmers will own the land. Not even an inch of farmers’ land will be taken away,” the letter read.

The government’s outreach programme was part of its 10-point plan to deal with the farmers’ protest. There were also plans to create public opinion, with the party’s senior leaders and cabinet ministers speaking on the benefits of the farm laws across 700 districts.

The situation, however, changed with the Supreme Court, which is hearing a clutch of petitions on the protest, suggesting that the matter be handed over to a special committee. The committee, the court said, should have “independent members with knowledge of agriculture” who will hear both sides and submit a report with their recommendations.

The letter, however, did not contain any fresh proposal. The last one — turned down several times by the farmers, once even in writing — was bringing amendments in the laws.

The government, which has so far conducted five rounds of talks with the farmers, told the top court today that they are adamant about the repeal of laws and have a “yes-or-no stance”.

The court brushed off its suggestion of a clause-by-clause discussion.

“We observed yesterday that the Centre is not successful in negotiations. We do not think that the farmers will accept your conclusions. Let the committee decide,” said Chief Justice of India SA Bobde.