Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Tomar on Thursday clarified that the government’s ninth round of negotiations with farmer leaders over the new laws will take place as per schedule on Friday. There had been uncertainty about whether the parleys would be held, given the Supreme Court has appointed a panel to resolve the deadlock.
Minister of State for Agriculture Kailash Choudhary, meanwhile, said that Supreme Court-appointed panel is an impartial one, and the farmers should put forward their demands to its experts.
Earlier in the day, the Congress accused the Narendra Modi government of having “misled” the Supreme Court on pre-legislative consultations it claimed to have held with various stakeholders before bringing in the reforms.
For over 50 days, tens of thousands of farmers have camped on the outskirts of New Delhi, to protest against what they see as laws threatening their livelihoods. Eight rounds of talks with the government has so far failed end the impasse.
Read today’s top updates:
10.11 pm: Actor Hema Malini claims that protesting farmers “do not even know what they want”, and are unable to explain the problems they have with the new laws, reports The Times of India. The actor-turned-politician also alleged that farmers were being misled and that they are agitating against the legislations at the behest of some vested interests.
10.07 pm: Activist Anna Hazare writes to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, saying he would go on the “last fast of my life” by the end of January in New Delhi to protest against the farm laws, despite authorities not granting permission to demonstrate in the Capital, reports The Indian Express.
He points out that he had written to the prime minister, asking him to implement the recommendations made by the Swaminathan Commission’s, and to revise the Minimum Support Price formula, but did not received any response.
“Hence, I have decided to go on the last fast of my life by the end of January. I have written four letters to the authorities concerned to seek permission to hold the protest at Ramlila Maidan, but have not received a response. I have also written five letters to the Union Agriculture Minister, but have not received any reply. This is not good for your government. This creates doubts in my mind if this is some sort of revenge.”— Anna Hazare, The Indian Express
9.59 pm: The Supreme Court-appointed panel on farm laws is likely to hold its first meeting on January 19 at Pusa campus in Delhi, one of its members, Anil Ghanwat, tells PTI. Ghanwat adds that the committee will have no “ego or prestige issue” if it has to go to farmers’ protest sites to talk to them.
The panel members were scheduled to have a virtual meeting earlier in the day to discuss its future course of action, but it could not take place after farmer leader Bhupinder Singh Mann recused himself from the committee.
9.56 pm: Krantikari Kisan Union chief Darshan Pal says his organisation will attend tomorrow’s meeting with the government, reports ANI. “We will decide what to do based on how the government will behave,” he adds.
9.54 pm: Bharatiya Kisan Union spokesperson Rakesh Tait says that farmers will take out a procession on Republic day from Red Fort to the India Gate, reports ANI. “It will be a historic scene where on one side we will have kisan [farmers] and on the other side, jawan [soldiers],” he says.
9.51 pm: Farmer leaders say they will attend the ninth round of talks with the government, but add that they don’t have “much hope” as they will not settle for anything less than the repeal of the contentious farm laws, reports PTI. Since a Supreme Court-appointed panel on farm laws is likely to hold its first meeting on January 19, the meeting on Friday between with the government and the unions may be the last one.
6.17 pm: Farmer leaders welcomed Bhartiya Kisan Union President Bhupinder Singh Mann’s decision to recuse himself from a Supreme Court-appointed committee, and reiterated that they will not settle for anything less than the repeal of the three contentious laws, reports PTI.
“Mann’s decision is a good step as there is no importance of any committee for farmer unions as it has not been our demand,” farmer leader Gurnam Singh Chaduni tells PTI. “Mann knew that no farmer union would appear before the court-appointed committee that’s why he has taken this decision.”
6.03 pm: Agriculture Minister Narendra Tomar says the government’s ninth round of negotiations with protesting farmer unions will take place as scheduled on Friday, adding that he was hopeful of a positive outcome this time, reports PTI.
“The government is ready to hold talks with farmers’ leaders with an open mind,” Tomar adds.
3.28 pm: Bhupinder Singh Mann, one of the panel members appointed by the Supreme Court to resolve the deadlock on the new farm laws, recuses himself from the committee. Mann says that he would always stand with the farmers and Punjab.
3.25 pm: The Trinamool Congress claims that the new agriculture laws will leave small and marginal farmers at the mercy of big corporates and demands that the legislation should be immediately repealed, reports PTI.
“The way the Centre hurriedly passed the farm laws through an ordinance without going for a parliamentary debate clearly shows that the Union government is anti-farmer and anti-people,” says Barasat MP Kakoli Ghosh Dastidar.
3.14 pm: Congress leader Rahul Gandhi says the Centre was conspiring to destroy the farmers. “The government is trying to destroy them because they want to benefit two or three of their friends... They want to take the land of the farmers, they want to take the produce of the farmer and give it to their friends,” he alleges at a press conference in Madurai, Tamil Nadu.
2.05 pm: Minister of State for Agriculture Kailash Choudhary says the Supreme Court-appointed panel is an impartial one, reports ANI.
“I would urge farmers to keep their matters in front of the court so that a timely resolution can be reached,” Choudhary says. “All decisions will be taken in the court now. The government can only put forward its stand.”
1.53 pm: Shiv Sena accuses Centre of trying to end farmers’ protest by using Supreme Court as a front, reports PTI. In an article in its mouthpiece Saamana, the party says Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s stature will grow if he honours the sentiments of farmers and scrap the new laws.
11.56 am: Bhupinder Singh Mann, the chief of All India Kisan Coordination Committee and a member of the Supreme Court-appointed panel to hear the farmers’ grievances against the farm laws, says that he wants to stay impartial, reports The Indian Express. Protesting farmers believe that Mann is the president of a “pro-farm laws farm union”.
11.47 am: Congress leader Rahul Gandhi wishes the country on harvest festivals and extends “special prayers and wishes” to farmers protesting against the Centre’s farm laws. “Harvest season is a time of joy and celebrations,” he tweets. “Happy Makar Sankranti, Pongal, Bihu, Bhogi and Uttarayan! Special prayers & wishes for our Kisan-Mazdoors [farmers-labourers] who are fighting for their rights against powerful forces.”
8.30 am: Congress leader Abhishek Singhvi accuses the Narendra Modi government of having “misled” the Supreme Court on pre-legislative consultations it claimed to have held before passing the farm laws. He cites a response given by the Centre under the Right to Information Act, saying that there is no record of pre-legislative consultations on the three laws.
Singhvi says the Centre’s affidavit before the top court is an attempt to “prevaricate, distort, misrepresent and mislead” the Supreme Court and the nation.
8.28 am: Vijay Chhabra, the BJP chief of Punjab’s Faridkot district, has quit the party to join its former ally Shiromani Akali Dal because of the farm laws, reports The Indian Express.
“I have quit the party to express my support to farmers and Punjabiyat,” says Chhabra. “Though farm ordinance was tabled in the month of June, and I have left the party after six months of protests by farmers on this issue, earlier I was fighting for farmers while staying within the party.”
8.20 am: The Narendra Modi government is yet to decide whether to hold its next round of negotiations with farm unions on Friday, reports The Hindu. Eight rounds of talks with the government has so far failed end the impasse.
An official from the agriculture ministry tells the newspaper that no firm decision has been taken on continuing talks. However, farm unions say they have not received any notice of cancellation. “There was nothing in the Supreme Court order that says that this process needs to be stopped for two months until the committee submits its report,” says Swaraj India president Yogendra Yadav. “That would be a perverse interpretation of the order.”
A quick look at the developments from Wednesday:
- Farmers protesting against the Centre’s three agriculture laws in Punjab, Haryana and at the borders of Delhi burnt copies of the legislations and shouted slogans against Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
- Meanwhile, a large convoy of tractors left Amritsar for Delhi to participate in the protest parade announced by farmer unions during Republic Day celebrations on January 26.
- The Opposition questioned the Supreme Court’s decision of forming a committee comprising only of those experts who have been openly favouring the contentious agricultural legislations to resolve the deadlock. It said a partisan panel like this cannot be expected to be a “neutral arbiter”.
- Shetkari Sanghatana President Anil Ghanwat, who is one of the members of the committee appointed by the Supreme Court to hear farmers’ grievances against the contentious agricultural laws, on Wednesday said he would keep aside his personal opinions, and ensure the protestors “get justice”.