Talks between the government and farmers’ unions yet again remained inconclusive on Friday, as protesting leaders stayed firm on their demand for repealing the new agricultural laws, which they say would leave them at the mercy of corporations, reported PTI.
This was the ninth round of discussions over the drawn-out dispute, which again failed in ending the weeks-long stalemate. The next round of talks are expected on January 19, the day when a Supreme Court-appointed committee is likely to start consulting stakeholders to end the impasse, according to NDTV.
“It was a 120% failure,” said farmer leader Darshan Pal, who was part of the delegation that met the Union ministers, according to the channel. “We suggested that the government remove the changes made to the Essential Commodities Act instead of scrapping it altogether. But the Agriculture Minister [Narendra Tomar] has not said anything on this.”
On December 30, the government and farmers had reached a consensus on two issues – that the government would continue its subsidy of electricity, and that farmers would not be punished for stubble burning, a cause of air pollution. But the deadlock over MSP and a total repeal persisted.
During Friday’s parleys, leaders of the 40 farmers’ unions also reiterated their skepticism about the Supreme Court-appointed panel’s role. They said they want “continued direct communication” with the Centre and “not brokers”, adding that they would not appear before a committee, which is staffed with “pro-government” people, NDTV reported.
“Our demands of repealing of the three farm laws and MSP [Minimum Support Price] guarantee remain,” said Bharatiya Kisan Union spokesperson Rakesh Tait, according to ANI. “We will not go to the Committee constituted by the Supreme Court. We will talk to Central government only.”
The Supreme Court on Tuesday suspended the implementation of the market-oriented laws until a committee of experts, appointed by the court, could consult with government officials and protesting farmers to find an end to the deadlock. However, all four members tasked with providing expert opinion to the court on the future of the laws have in the past publicly spoken in support of the laws.
On Thursday, Bhupinder Singh Mann, one of the four members, recused himself from the panel. He said that he would always stand with the farmers and Punjab.
At the meeting on Friday, Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Tomar asked the farmers why they keep accusing the Centre of being adamant and egoistic, even though it had accepted several of their demands, said Baljit Singh Bali of Punjab Kisan Morcha, according to PTI. Tomar requested the farmers to be flexible, Bali said.
Some farmers also demanded the direct intervention of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to resolve the the matter, NDTV reported. Currently, the talks are being led by Tomar, along with Union minister Piyush Goyal and Minister of State for Commerce Som Parkash.
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Positive of reaching conclusion, says Tomar
Meanwhile, Agriculture Minister Tomar said that even though this round of talks were indecisive, he was positive that the government would reach a solution in the next round of discussions on January 19, reported ANI. “The government is concerned about the farmers protesting in cold conditions,” he added.
The Centre will present its side before the committee appointed by the Supreme Court as well, Tomar said. In the meantime, he appealed to farmers to be “flexible in their approach”.
Some farm leaders too offered a glimmer of hope, saying they were looking forward to a positive outcome. “Both the government and farmer unions have reaffirmed their commitment to continue with the direct dialogue process,” All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee member Kavita Kuruganti, who is part of the meeting, said.
“There is possibility of some resolution,” added farmer leader Darshan Pal.
Meanwhile, tens of thousands of farmers continue to camp on the outskirts of Delhi, protesting for the repeal of the three laws passed in September. The farmers believe that the new laws undermine their livelihood and open the path to the corporatisation of the agricultural sector.
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 law passed in September are meant to overhaul antiquated procurement procedures and open up the market, the government has claimed.