One of the major challenges before the govt is to ensure that the farmers call off their proposed tractor march to Delhi on Republic Day
New Delhi: The ninth round of talks on Friday between the Central government and the protesting farmers’ unions over the three agricultural reform laws again failed to break the deadlock as the two sides were unable to reach common ground on the issues of repeal of the laws and the Minimum Support Price (MSP) Act.
The next round of talks has been scheduled on Tuesday, January 19, the day when the Supreme Court-appointed committee was due to start its consultations with stakeholders to end the impasse. Friday’s was the first meeting after the court stayed the implementation of the farm laws till further orders and announced formation of a four-member panel to hear the grievances of the farmers and the government’s views.
Just two days after the committee was named by the court, Bhupinder Singh Mann, president of BKU (Mann) and chairman of All India Kisan Coordination Committee, recused himself from the panel, saying: “I will always stand with my farmers and Punjab”.
One of the major challenges before the government is to ensure that the farmers call off their proposed tractor march to Delhi on Republic Day. On Monday, the Supreme Court will have to decide on a petition by the Centre, moved through the Delhi police, to stop the protesters from holding any rally that could disrupt the Republic Day parade.
While the Centre insists the laws introduced in September will unshackle farmers from having to sell their produce only at regulated wholesale markets, the protesting farmers say the bills are meant to benefit private buyers.
After meeting 41 representatives of farmers’ unions, agriculture minister Narendra Singh Tomar said: “Today’s talks with the farmers unions were inconclusive. We will hold talks again on January 19. We are positive (about) reaching a solution through talks.” During the negotiations, he urged the union leaders to be “flexible” in their approach. Besides Mr Tomar, Union ministers Piyush Goyal and Som Parkash, who is an MP from Punjab, were also present at the meeting which lasted for around five hours.
Mr Tomar said the government was concerned about the health of the farmers who have been camping on Delhi’s outskirts for almost two months. The farmers’ round-the-clock sit-ins in cold weather have also led to some deaths among them.
Mr Tomar said he has no problem with the fact that the unions want to continue their talks only with the government, but also said the court-appointed panel will also continue its work. On the Congress’ protest led by Rahul Gandhi in support of the agitating farmers, he said: “Congress leaders laugh at the statements and actions of Rahul Gandhi, (they) mock him. I would like to tell him that in their 2019 election manifesto, the Congress had promised that they will bring this reform. If he does not remember, he should read the manifesto again.”
Bharatiya Kisan Union spokesman Rakesh Tikait, who has been at the forefront of the agitation for over seven weeks at Delhi’s borders, said: “Our demands of repealing of the three farm laws & MSP guarantee remain. We will not go to the committee constituted by the Supreme Court. We’ll talk to the Central government only.” All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee member Kavita Kuruganti said: “Both the government and the farmers’ unions have reaffirmed their commitment to continue with the direct dialogue process.”
Farmers’ leader Joginder Singh Ugrahan said the unions have urged the government to repeal the three laws, but the Centre was unwilling to do so. “We decided to meet again on January 19 at 12 noon.” He said the union leaders also raised the issue of the NIA raids on transporters in Punjab who are supporting the farmers’ protests and providing logistics support for the agitation.