Protesting farmer leaders on January 14 said they will attend the ninth round of talks with the government amid indication that it may be the last such meeting with the Centre, but added that they don’t have much hope as they will not settle for anything less than the repeal of the contentious farm laws .
Since a Supreme Court-appointed panel on farm laws is likely to hold its first meeting on January 19, the meeting on January 15 between with the government and the unions may be the last one.
Bhartiya Kisan Union (Ekta Ugrahan) Joginder Singh Ugrahan told PTI, “We are going to hold talks with the government tomorrow. We don’t have much hope from the Friday meeting as the government will cite the SC-appointed panel. The government doesn’t have good intention to resolve our issues.” Mr. Ugrahan said that the unions do not want any committee, adding “we just want a complete repeal of three farm laws and legal guarantee on minimum support price for our crops”. He said that farmers will not call off their protest until their demands are met.
Another farmer leader, Abhimanyu Kohar, said that government knows that the court cannot repeal the laws and added that the Centre should stop playing with the sentiments of farmers who have been camping at several Delhi borders since November 28.
He said that forming a committee is not a solution, adding that the new farm laws have been enacted by Parliament and the court cannot do much.
While the previous eight rounds of negotiations have failed to end the protests continuing for several weeks on various borders of the national capital, Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar said earlier in the day that the government is hopeful of positive discussions at the scheduled January 15 meeting.
‘Supreme Court-appointed panel ready to go to protest sites’
In an interview to PTI, Anil Ghanwat, a member of the Supreme Court-appointed committee, said that the panel will have no “ego or prestige issue” if it has to go to farmers’ protest sites to talk to them.
On the government holding parallel talks with protesting farmers scheduled for January 15, Mr. Ghanwat said, “I think this will be their last meeting with the government. They will say henceforth you (farmers) have to sit with the committee, which will give a report to the Supreme Court.” Asked about protesting farmers’ unwillingness to take part in the committee proceedings, he said, “We will go before them. We are their brothers. We have worked together in the past. We will reach out to them, sit with them and discuss the issue. There is no problem.” The farmer unions have been maintaining that they were ready to attend the scheduled talks with the government, even as they have said they do not want to appear before the court-appointed panel and have also questioned its composition.
Earlier in the day, Bhartiya Kisan Union president Bhupinder Singh Mann said he is recusing himself from the four-member committee.
Farmer unions and opposition parties had called it a “pro-government” panel, insisting that its members have been in favour of the three laws in the past.