The Centre and the farmer leaders began the fifth round of talks on Saturday after 2 pm at Vigyan Bhavan in New Delhi to resolve the standoff over the contentious agricultural laws, ANI reported. The talks are led by Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar and Food and Railways Minister Piyush Goyal and Minister of State for Commerce Som Parkash, who is an MP from Punjab.
Representatives of 40 farmers’ unions have asked the Narendra Modi government to give a point-wise written reply of their last meeting. The government accepted the demand and gave a written reply of the minutes of the meeting.
Union Home Minister Amit Shah and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh along with other ministers met Prime Minister Narendra Modi before the meeting.
Ahead of the talks, a protesting farmer told the Hindustan Times that the government was merely issuing dates for meetings. “All the organisations have unanimously decided that today is the last day for discussion,” he said. Another farmer said that they will protest at the Parliament if the result of the meeting was not fruitful.
The farm laws protest entered the tenth day on Saturday as the earlier talks between the Centre and the farmers remained inconclusive. On Friday, the farmers called for a Bharat Bandh on December 8 and threatened to occupy toll plazas.
Earlier in the day, Kisan Mahapanchayat president Rampal Jat asked the government to withdraw the farming laws and give in writing that the minimum support price mechanism would continue. “If any positive result doesn’t come out of today’s talks, farmers from Rajasthan will march along NH-8 towards Delhi and camp at Jantar Mantar,” he said.
On the other hand, Tomar was hopeful that the farmers would call off their protests.
Harinder Singh Lakhowal, the general secretary of Bharatiya Kisan Union, said that farmers will protest against the central government and the corporate houses and burn their effigies on Saturday, adding that on December 7, sportspersons will return their medals in solidarity with the farmers.
At the end of Thursday’s talks, one of the farmer leaders had expressed hope that the matter will be “finalised” in the next meeting, while the government said that it has “no ego” and was dealing with the matter with “an open mind”.
The Centre, represented by Tomar, had agreed to review the farm legislation and “bring amendments” if needed to address the farmers’ demands. However, the farmers want the contentious legislation rolled back completely.
After the talks, Tomar reiterated the government’s assurance that the Minimum Support Price regime will not be done away with under the new laws. Noting that the farmers have concerns that the mandis (wholesale markets) will come under threat, he said the government will contemplate measures to address the matter.
The farmers are staging their protests at Delhi’s borders, leading the police to block several such points across the Capital. In view of the road blockades, a public interest litigation was filed in the Supreme Court seeking to remove the protesting farmers from the border areas.
The Parliament had passed three ordinances – Farmers Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion & Facilitation) Ordinance 2020, The Farmers (Empowerment & Protection) Assurance and Farm Service Ordinance 2020 and The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Ordinance 2020 – in September. They were signed into laws by President Ram Nath Kovind on September 27.
Farmers and traders have alleged that the government wants to discontinue the minimum support price regime in the name of reforms. They fear that the laws will leave them at the mercy of corporate powers. The government has maintained that farm laws will bring farmers better opportunities and usher in new technologies in agriculture.
The government claims the new laws would give farmers the freedom to sell in the open market. But farmers say the laws will weaken the minimum support price mechanism under which the government buys agricultural produce, leave farmers to the mercy of market forces and threaten food security.