New Delhi: The 11th round of talks between the government and representatives of protesting farmer unions on three new farm laws remained inconclusive on Friday (January 22). The government, however, fixed no date for the next round of meetings, telling the unions that all possible options have been given to them, and they must discuss internally the proposal of suspending laws.
Two days ago, the Centre had proposed to suspend the agricultural laws for one and half years and had set up a joint panel to discuss the Acts to end the stalemate.
Farmer leaders told reporters that the meeting may have lasted for nearly five hours, but two sides sat face to face for less than 30 minutes.
Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar is learned to have told farmer unions that the government is ready for another meeting if farmers want to discuss the proposal on suspending laws.
Tomar thanked unions for cooperation, saying there are no problems with the new laws, but the government offered to suspend them with respect for farmers.
Farmer unions, however, told the government they want a complete repeal of three contentious farm laws even as the Centre asked them to reconsider its proposal for putting the Acts on hold for 12-18 months, as the two sides met for their 11th round of talks to resolve the nearly-two-month long deadlock.
“No date for the next meeting has been fixed by the government,” Surjeet Singh Phul, State President of BKU Krantikari (Punjab), told reporters.
Rakesh Tikait, spokesperson, Bhartiya Kisan Union, said, “During the meeting, the government offered to put the implementation of the farm laws on hold for two years and said that the next round of meeting can take place only if farmer unions are ready to accept the proposal.” Tikait, however, said that the tractor rally will take place on January 26, as planned.
Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Committee leader SS Pandher said that the minister made us wait for three and a half hours, adding “This is an insult to farmers. When he came, he asked us to consider the govt’s proposal and said that he is ending the process of meetings… The agitation will continue peacefully.”
On wednesday, the government had offered to put on hold the three laws and set up a joint committee to find solutions. The farmer unions, however, decided to reject the offer and stick to their two major demands — the repeal of the three laws and a legal guarantee of the minimum support price (MSP).
“We told the government that we will not agree to anything other than the repeal of the laws. But the minister asked us to discuss separately again and rethink on the matter and convey the decision,” farmer leader Darshan Pal told PTI during a break after the first session.
The eleventh round of talks between protesting farmer unions and three central ministers began at around 1 pm, but not much headway was visible in the first few hours of the meeting. Some leaders had apprehensions that the movement will lose its momentum once the farmers go away from Delhi borders.
Along with Union Agriculture Minister Tomar, Railways, Commerce and Food Minister Piyush Goyal and Minister of State for Commerce Som Parkash are also participating in the talks with representatives of 41 farmer unions at the Vigyan Bhawan here.
In a full general body meeting on Thursday, Samyukt Kisan Morcha, the umbrella body of the protesting unions, rejected the government’s proposal. “A full repeal of three central farm Acts and enacting a legislation for remunerative MSP for all farmers were reiterated as the pending demands of the movement,” the Morcha said in a statement.
Notably, thousands of farmers, mainly from Punjab, Haryana, and western Uttar Pradesh, are protesting at various border points of Delhi for over a month now against the three new farm laws.
(With Agency Inputs)