The Centre has called for a fourth round of talks with protesting farmers on December 3, after the meeting between the government and over 30 union leaders on Tuesday failed to break the impasse over the new agricultural laws, PTI reported. The talks remained inconclusive as both the parties failed to reach a common ground, leaders of farmers’ groups said.
The central government asked the representatives of farmers unions to identify the specific issues related to the new laws and share them by Wednesday. “These issues will be discussed during the fourth round of meeting to be held on 03.12.2020,” a press release stated.
Among those who participated in the talks, held at Vigyan Bhawan, were 32 unions from Punjab, two representatives from Haryana, Yogendra Yadav on behalf of All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee, and one leader from Uttar Pradesh, according to The Indian Express. From the government’s side, Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar and Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal were present at the meeting.
During the discussion with protestors, the government offered to set up a committee to look into the concerns related to the laws. But the farmers turned down the idea, Roopsingh Sanha, member of Bharatiya Kisan Union (Ekta Ugrahan), told PTI.
The protestors remained adamant that the Centre should abolish the new legislations, which they fear would lead to the government no longer buying grain at minimum guaranteed prices, and result in the agricultural sector’s exploitation by corporations who will further push down prices. The farmer unions emphasised that their demand was “non-negotiable”.
“We will definitely take back something from the government, be it bullets or a peaceful solution,” Chanda Singh, a representative of the protesting farmers who was part of the delegation that met the Centre, told ANI. Singh added that they would continue with their protests near Delhi’s borders indefinitely.
All India Kisan Federation President Prem Singh Bhangu said that “some progress was made” at the meeting. “During our next meet on 3rd December with the government, we’ll convince them that no clause of farm law is pro-farmer,” he added. “Our agitation will continue.”
Tomar said the government, on its part, would continue engaging in a dialogue with the farmers. “We wanted a small group to be constituted but farmers’ leaders wanted that the talks should be held with everyone, we do not have problem with it,” he told ANI.
The Union minister also renewed his appeal to the farmers to call off their agitation that has entered the sixth day. “We are ready for a discussion to resolve their issues,” he added. “However, the decision depends on the farmers and their unions.”
Later in the day, Tomar and Goyal held another round of talks with farmers’ leaders from Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, and Uttarakhand at Krishi Bhawan. Bharatiya Kisan Union representatives were also present. The agriculture minister said the meeting was held “in a very good environment”.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his ministers have attempted to defuse the escalating farmers’ protests. Thousands of protestors have blocked highways and hunkered down on the outskirts of Delhi.
Earlier in the day, Union Home Minister Amit Shah met Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and Tomar at Bharatiya Janata Party chief JP Nadda’s residence. This was the second meeting of the senior BJP leaders in less than 48 hours.
The Centre had advanced Tuesday’s meeting from its original date of December 3, citing the coronavirus pandemic and cold weather. Another offer was made by Shah on Sunday, who said the government would expedite talks, if the farmers moved their protests to a government-designated venue in North Delhi and stop blocking highways. But the farmers refused, saying they would never go to an “open jail”.
Meanwhile, the police detained Shaheen Bagh activist Bilkis “Dadi” from Singhu border after she joined the agitation. Earlier, Bhim Army chief Chandrashekhar Azad also joined the protest at the Ghazipur-Ghaziabad border, where farmers have been camping on highways inside their trucks and tractors.
Farmers from neighbouring states, mostly Punjab and Haryana, are among those who are demonstrating against the new laws. They allege the government wants to discontinue the minimum support price regime in the name of reforms. The government has maintained that farm laws will bring farmers better opportunities and usher in new technologies in agriculture.
But the government says the legislation would bring about necessary reform that will allow farmers to market their produce and boost production through private investment.
On Monday, Modi said said farmers were being misled by opposition parties and that his government would address their concerns. “The new agricultural laws have been brought in for benefit of the farmers,” the prime minister said at a rally in his constituency of Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh. “Reforms are being done in the interest of farmers, which will give them more options.”