New Delhi: The seventh round of talks between protesting farmer unions and three Union ministers ended inconclusively on Monday (January 4) as the farmer leaders insisted on the repeal of the three contentious agriculture laws right from the beginning, while the government listed various benefits from the Acts. They, however, agreed to hold the next meeting on January 8.
Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar told reporters, “We wanted farmer unions to discuss three laws clause-wise. We could not reach any solution as farmer union remained adamant on the repeal of the laws,” adding “Looking at today’s discussion, I hope that we will have a meaningful discussion during our next meeting and we will come to a conclusion.”
Tomar said he remains hopeful of a solution in the next meeting on January 8, but asserted that efforts need to be made from both sides for a solution to be reached (taali dono haathon se bajti hai).
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.
“Government is under tremendous pressure. We all said that this is our demand (repeal of the laws). We don’t want a discussion on any other topic except for on repeal of the laws. Protests will not be withdrawn until repeal of laws,” said Hannan Mollah, General Secretary, All India Kisan Sabha.
Rakesh Tikait, Spokesperson of Bharatiya Kisan Union, told ANI, “Discussion took place on our demands — repeal of the three laws and MSP… Kannon wapasi nahi, to ghar wapasi nahi (We will not go home until the laws are withdrawn).”
Yudhvir Singh, Bhartiya Kisan Union, said, “the minister wanted us to discuss the law point-wise. We rejected it and said that there is no point in discussing the laws because we want a complete rollback of the laws. Govt intends to take us towards amendments but we will not accept it.”
When the talks started between the farmer unions and the Central ministers, the former 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. During the break, representatives of protesting farmers had their own food, arranged from langar (community kitchen), as they have been doing for the last few times.
Unlike 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 almost two 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. Farmer leaders said the government said it needs to consult internally and thereafter it would come back to the unions.
In Monday’s talks, another key demand of farmers for a legal guarantee to the Minimum Support Price (MSP) procurement system barely came up for discussion.
Notably, thousands of farmers, mainly from Punjab, Haryana, and western Uttar Pradesh, are protesting at various Delhi borders for over a month against the three laws. They have stayed put despite heavy rains and waterlogging at protest sites over the last couple of days, besides severe cold weather conditions prevailing in and around the national capital.
Last month, the government had sent a draft proposal to the protesting farmer unions, suggesting seven-eight amendments to the new laws and a written assurance on the MSP procurement system. The government, however, ruled out a repeal of the three agri laws.
(With Agency Inputs)