No headway in Govt-farmers talks

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No headway in Govt-farmers talks

Tuesday, 05 January 2021 | Rajesh Kumar | New Delhi

No headway in Govt-farmers talks

As farmer leaders stick to their guns, Govt says Acts won’t be repealed; next talks on Jan 8

The seventh round of talks between protesting farmers’ unions and the Government failed to end the impasse on Monday as the Government ruled out rollback of the three agricultural laws and the farmer leaders refused to call off their agitation till that happens. The next round of talks will be held on January 8.

According to farmers’ leader Sarwan Singh Pandher of the Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Committee, the Union Ministers have clearly said that the laws will not be repealed. “The Ministers even told us to approach the Supreme Court for repeal of the laws,” he said. The farmer leaders said they will continue with their agitation till the laws are repealed.

The Government, represented by Union Ministers Narendra Singh Tomar, Piyush Goyal and Som Prakash, told the delegation of 41 participating union leaders that it would review any clause the protesters have a problem with. The Ministers also asked the farmer leaders to point out what they considered objectionable in the legislations. The Government has maintained that these apprehensions are misplaced and has ruled out repealing the laws.

Sources said the Government has offered a joint committee on minimum support price for crops to discuss the farmers’ demand for legalising it, but the union leaders remained adamant on discussing the repeal of the farm laws. During the meeting, the Government listed various benefits from the three laws, enacted a few months ago, but farmers kept insisting that the legislation must be withdrawn to address their apprehensions that the new Acts would weaken the MSP and mandi system and leave them at the mercy of big corporates.

After the meeting, Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar said the Government is sensitive about farmers’ issues and offered clause-wise discussion on the three Acts but they could not reach a conclusion.

“We are hopeful that we can find a solution in the next meeting on January 8,” Tomar said but asserted that efforts need to be made from both sides for a solution to be reached (taali dono haathon se bajti hai). “The meeting was held in good atmosphere but farmers were adamant on their demands and we could not arrive at any conclusion. The Government wanted a clause-wise discussion on the legislations to take forward the talks,” he said.

“Several rounds of talks are held during such important issues. The Government has to decide keeping in mind farmers of the entire country. Both sides want to resolve the issue. The laws have been made keeping in mind the best interest of farmers,” Tomar added.

The first two hours of talks focussed only on the three laws and the other key demand of farmers for a legal guarantee to the MSP procurement system did not come up for discussions.

Sources said before the meeting at Vigyan Bhavan began, both parties observed a two-minute silence as a mark of tribute to the 50 protesting farmers who died during the agitation.

Farmer leaders, however, alleged that it was the Government’s “ego problem” that was coming in the way of resolving the issues and they insisted they would not relent on their key demands for the repeal of the three laws and a legal guarantee for the MSP (minimum support price) system for procurement of their crops. The Government is not interested in resolving the issue, claimed farmer leaders.

From the very beginning of the meeting, union leaders kept on insisting on the repeal of the three contentious farm laws and the two sides took a long break after just about one hour of discussions. Farmer leaders said the Government informed them that it needs to consult internally and thereafter it would come back to the unions. During the meeting, farmers categorically told the Ministers that they don’t want clause by clause discussions on three farm laws.

“We have already rejected any alternative to repeal. We want quick withdrawal of these laws and it can be done through Ordinance when Parliament is not in session,” the union leaders said.

Farmers’ leader of Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU), Rakesh Tikait said that ‘Kanun wapsi nahi, to ghar wapsi nahi’ (We will not go home until the laws are withdrawn). The union leaders will also have their own meeting on Tuesday to decide their next course of action.

“The Government is under tremendous pressure. We don’t want a discussion on any other topic except for repeal of the laws. Protests will not be withdrawn until the laws are repealed,” All India Kisan Sabha general secretary Hannan Mollah said.

The two sides took a long break after just about one hour of discussions. The representatives of protesting farmers had their own food, arranged from langar (community kitchen), as they have been doing for the last few times. However, unlike in the last round of talks on December 30, the Ministers did not join the union leaders for the langar food and were seen having their own discussion separately during the break, which lasted for more than one and half hours. The two sides got together again to resume their discussions at around 5.15 pm, but no headway could be made as the talks remained focussed on the farmers’ demand for the repeal of the Acts.

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