Govt-farmer talks: No decision at meeting, stalemate continues
New Delhi: As the eighth round of talks between the Centre and protesting farmers on Friday failed to break an over-a-month-long deadlock, Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar said no decision could be reached as unions did not give alternatives to their demand for the repeal of laws.
Speaking to reporters after the meeting that lasted for little over two hours, Tomar said the government is still hopeful that union leaders will come with alternatives to discuss in the next round of talks on January 15.
But, he virtually ruled out repeal of the laws saying many other groups across the country are supporting these reforms.
On whether the government made a proposal to farmers to join a pending case in Supreme Court on issues related to farmers’ protest, Tomar said the government did not make any such suggestion but it is always committed to follow whatever is decided by the Supreme Court.
Sources said the next date has been decided after keeping in mind a scheduled hearing of the Supreme Court on January 11 as the government feels the apex court may look into the legality of the three laws, besides other issues related to farmers’ protests.
Asked whether the government would consider any proposal for allowing states to decide whether to implement the laws or not, Tomar said no such proposal was made by any farmer leader in this regard, but if such a suggestion is made the government will take a call at that time.
After the meeting, union leader Joginder Singh Ugrahan said the meeting was inconclusive and it was unlikely that any resolution can happen in the next round of talks as well.
“We do not want anything less than the repeal of laws,” he said.
“Government is testing our strength, but we will not bow down. It seems we will have to spend Lohri and Baisakhi festivals here at protest sides,” he said.
Another union leader Hannan Mollah said farmers are ready to fight till death and going to court was not an option.
He said the farmer unions will meet on January 11 to decide their next course of action.
Jai Kisan Andolan union leader Ravinder Kaur was seen crying after the meeting and said many mothers have lost their sons and many daughters have lost their fathers.
Sticking to their key demand of the repeal of three farm laws to end their protest, farmer leaders told the government their “ghar wapsi” from protest sites on Delhi borders can happen only after “law wapsi” but the Centre insisted talks must be limited to contentious clauses and ruled out a complete withdrawal of Acts.
At the eighth round of negotiations with the 41-member representative group of protesting farmers, the government ruled out the repeal of the laws, while asserting that these reforms have been welcomed by a large section of farmers in various states and asked the unions to think about the interests of the entire country.
Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar, Railways, Commerce and Food Minister Piyush Goyal and Minister of State for Commerce Som Parkash, who is an MP from Punjab, have been holding talks with unions at Vigyan Bhawan in the heart of the national capital, while thousands of farmers have stayed put at various Delhi borders to protest against the three laws they find pro-corporate and against the existing mandi and MSP procurement systems.
At the outset, Tomar appealed to unions for discussions on the laws, while farm leaders reiterated their demand that the new Acts must be withdrawn, sources said, adding that the agriculture minister stressed on protecting the farmers’ interest of the entire country.
“Our ‘ghar wapsi’ (return to home) can happen only if you do ‘law wapsi’ (repeal of laws),” a farmer leader said at the meeting.
“Ideally, the Centre should not interfere in agriculture matters as various Supreme Court orders have declared farming as a state subject. It seems you (the government) do not want to resolve the issue as talks have been happening for so many days. In that case, please give us a clear answer and we will go. Why waste everyone’s time,” another farmer leader said at the meeting.
All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee (AIKSCC) member Kavitha Kuruganti, who was also present in the meeting, said the government has told unions that it cannot and will not repeal these laws.
Around one hour after the meeting, the three ministers stepped out of the discussion hall for their own internal consultations, after union leaders decided to observe silence while holding out papers with slogans including ‘Jeetenge ya Marenge’ (We will either win or die).
The union leaders, however, refused to take a lunch break and stayed put in the meeting room, a source said.
Before the start of the meeting, Tomar had also met senior BJP leader and Home Minister Amit Shah for about an hour.
Separately, Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar also met Shah here. (PTI)