The eighth round of talks on the three new agriculture laws between Centre and farmer bodies on Friday ended in yet another stalemate as the two sides could not reach a resolution on the contentious matters. The next meeting will be held on January 15, said Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar.
“We will come on 15th again,” Bharatiya Kisan Union spokesperson Rakesh Tikait told ANI. “The government wanted to talk about amendments. We do not wish to have clause wise discussions. We simply want a repeal of the new farm laws.”
Meanwhile, Agriculture Minister Tomar said that a decision could not be reached as the farmers did not provide any option other than scrapping of the laws, ANI reported.
Friday’s meeting did not lead to much headway as the farmers stuck to their demand of repealing the laws, and the Centre deciding against it, according to PTI. Farmer leaders said that their “ghar wapsi” [going back home] from protest sites on Delhi borders can happen only after “law wapsi” (taking back the laws) but the Centre insisted talks must be limited to contentions with specific clauses of the legislations.
The Union government also reportedly claimed that the new laws have been welcomed by a large section of farmers in various states and asked the unions to think about the interests of the entire country.
Meanwhile, one of the farmer leaders said that the Centre should not interfere into matter related to agriculture as it was a state subject in the Constitution. “It seems you [the government] do not want to resolve the issue as talks are being held for so many days,” he said, according to PTI. “In that case, please give us a clear answer and we will go. Why to waste everyone’s time.”
“The government has said it cannot and will not repeal the laws,” Kavitha Kuruganti, a farm leader who was present at the talks, told Hindustan Times.
An hour into the meeting, the three Cabinet ministers, representing the Centre, stepped out to have an internal discussion. The farmers, meanwhile, observed silence as a mark of protest, and held out papers that read: “Jeetenge ya Marenge (We will either win or die)”. The farmer leaders also refused to take a lunch break and stayed put in the room.
Meanwhile, the farmers on Friday, reiterated their plans to hold a tractor rally to Delhi on January 26. “If no solution arrived in today’s meeting, we will continue with our plan of tractor rally on January 26,” All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee member Kavitha Kuruganti said.
On Thursday, farmers held a tractor rally from the protest sites, bordering Delhi at Singhu, Tikri and Ghazipur, and Rewasan in Haryana, to the Eastern and Western Peripheral Expressways. Farmers’ unions said that Thursday’s rally was only a “rehearsal” ahead of another such march proposed on January 26, when they plan to move into the national Capital from different parts of Haryana, Punjab and Uttar Pradesh.
Tens of thousands of farmers, mostly from Punjab and Haryana, have been protesting at key entry points to Delhi for over a month against the laws now, withstanding temperatures dropping to two to three degrees Celsius. The Delhi-Haryana borders at Singhu, Tikri, Auchandi, Piau Maniyari, Saboli, and Mangesh, meanwhile, continued to remain closed on Friday. Border crossing points from Uttar Pradesh were also shut. The Delhi Police have advised commuters to take other routes.
The farmers fear the agricultural reforms will weaken the minimum support price mechanism under which the government buys agricultural produce, will lead to the deregulation of crop-pricing, deny them fair remuneration for their produce and leave them at the mercy of corporations. The government, on the other hand, maintains that the new laws will give farmers more options in selling their produce, lead to better pricing, and free them from unfair monopolies. The laws passed in September are meant to overhaul antiquated procurement procedures and open up the market, the government has claimed.
During the last seven rounds of talks between the Centre and farmer unions, the two sides had only reached an agreement on the decriminalisation of stubble burning and safeguarding electricity subsidies – two of the four matters of contention. The government is not willing to acquiesce to the two main demands of farmers – repeal of three farm laws and a legal guarantee for minimum support price system.