This is The Best We Can Offer, Centre Tells Farmers; Talks Inconclusive, Unions Threaten to Intensify Stir
In the last round of meetings held on Wednesday, the government had offered to put on hold the three laws and set up a joint committee to find solutions.
New Delhi: The eleventh round of talks between the government and farmer leaders on Friday failed to resolve the nearly-two-month long deadlock over the issue of contentious farm laws as both parties stuck to their stand.
Farmer unions told the government they want a complete repeal of three contentious farm laws even as the Centre asked them to reconsider its proposal for putting the Acts on hold for 12-18 months.
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Delhi: The 11th round of talks between farmer leaders and the Central govt, begins in Vigyan Bhawan#FarmLaws pic.twitter.com/tNMaCNxz7g
— ANI (@ANI) January 22, 2021
Unlike the last 10 rounds of talks, the 11th round could not even reach a decision on the next date for the meeting as the government also hardened its position saying it is ready to meet again once the unions agree to discuss the suspension proposal. This followed a big climbdown made by the Centre during the last round when they offered to suspend the laws and form a joint committee to find solutions.
Farmer leaders said they will intensify their agitation now and alleged that the government’s approach was not right during the meeting.
While the meeting lasted for almost five hours, the two sides sat face to face for less than 30 minutes. In the very beginning, the farmer leaders informed the government that they have decided to reject the proposal made by the government in the last round of talks on Wednesday.
The three central ministers, including Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar, urged the union representatives to reconsider their stand, after which the two sides went for a lunch break.
The break, during which the farmer leaders had their langar (community kitchen) food, lasted for more than three hours. It also saw the 41 farmer leaders holding consultations among themselves, at times in smaller groups, while the three central ministers waited in a separate room at Vigyan Bhawan.
After the meeting, Bharatiya Kisan Union (Ugrahan) leader Joginder Singh Ugrahan said the discussions have broken down as the unions rejected the government’s proposal.
The ministers told the unions that they have been given all possible options and they must discuss internally the proposal of suspending the laws.
Tomar told the farmer leaders that the government would be ready for another meeting if farmers want to discuss the proposal, sources said.
The minister also thanked unions for their cooperation and said while there were no problems with the laws, the government offered to suspend them as respect for the protesting farmers.
Coming out of the meeting venue, farmer leader Shiv Kumar Kakka said there was no headway in the discussions and the government asked unions to deliberate on its proposal again.
Kakka was the first to leave the meeting, but said it was for “some personal reasons”.
In the last round of meetings held on Wednesday, the government had offered to put on hold the three laws and set up a joint committee to find solutions. However, after internal consultations on Thursday, the farmer unions decided to reject the offer and stick to their two major demands — the repeal of the three laws and a legal guarantee of the minimum support price (MSP).
“We told the government that we will not agree to anything other than the repeal of the laws. But the minister asked us to discuss separately again and rethink the matter and convey the decision,” farmer leader Darshan Pal told PTI.
BKU leader Rakesh Tikait said: “We conveyed our position clearly to the government that we want a repeal of the laws and not a suspension. The ministers asked us to reconsider our decision.”
Some leaders expressed apprehensions that the movement will lose its momentum once the farmers go away from Delhi borders.
Thousands of farmers, mainly from Punjab, Haryana and western Uttar Pradesh, are protesting at various border points of Delhi for over a month now against the three laws.
Farmer groups have alleged these laws will end the mandi and MSP procurement systems and leave the farmers at the mercy of big corporates, even as the government has rejected these apprehensions as misplaced.
On January 11, the Supreme Court stayed the implementation of the three laws till further orders and appointed a four-member panel to resolve the impasse.
Bhartiya Kisan Union president Bhupinder Singh Mann had recused himself from the committee appointed by the apex court.
Shetkari Sanghatana (Maharashtra) president Anil Ghanwat and agriculture economists Pramod Kumar Joshi and Ashok Gulati, the other three members on the panel, started the consultation process with stakeholders on Thursday.
(With inputs from PTI)
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