Farmers’ protest | Farmers, govt. to continue talks

Union Ministers Narendra Singh Tomar and Piyush Goyal address the media after meeting with the farmer union leaders, in New Delhi on January 15, 2021.   | Photo Credit: Shiv Kumar Pushpakar

The ninth round of talks between the Centre and the farmer unions on Friday failed to break the impasse over the demand to repeal the three contentious farm laws. It was, however, agreed to continue the direct dialogue in parallel with the Supreme Court-appointed panel’s proceedings on the same issue.

Also read: Farmers’ protest: Supreme Court to hear case on January 18

The date for the next round of talks was set for January 19, the same day as the court-appointed panel is likely to hold its first meeting. The unions have refused to participate in the proceedings of the court-appointed committee, but were apprehensive that the Centre would use the court’s order as an excuse to end the direct negotiation process. However, it has now been agreed that this process would continue.

Speaking to presspersons after the meeting, Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar said a solution could emerge from the Centre’s talks with the farmers as well as from the court-appointed panel’s deliberations. He emphasised that the Centre was fully committed to the court’s order and would present its perspective to the panel when invited to do so. He accepted that the unions wished to continue their own dialogue with the government alone, but emphasised that the court was the supreme authority in the country, and its panel would also work in the interests of farmers’ welfare.

Mr. Tomar expressed the hope that the talks would “reach a decisive stage” on January 19.

Also read: Farmers’ protest | Direct dialogue will continue, says union leader

On Friday, the unions again refused to consider the Centre’s suggestions for amendments to the laws, or for a clause-by-clause discussion by a smaller group. Near the end of the discussions, he asked the unions what exactly it would take for the protests to be called off.

“He asked us, ‘if any one demand is fulfilled, will you take your movement back?’ We said no, both demands are equally important to us, and the movement will continue until both demands are met,” said Rashtriya Kisan Mahasangh spokesperson Abhimanyu Kohar. Both demands — for a legal guarantee for minimum support prices, and a full repeal of the three farm laws — will be on the agenda for the next meeting.

Earlier, the farmer unions also raised allegations of government intimidation and harassment against their movement and its supporters. The Haryana government has filed FIRs against protesters there, while the National Intelligence Agency, which comes under the Union Home Ministry, has been interrogating Punjab transporters who provide logistics support to the farmers, said Rakesh Tikait, who heads one faction of the Bharatiya Kisan Union.

Comment | Mediating the farmers’ protests is difficult terrain

The unions also explicitly clarified that their movement has nothing to do with the ‘Sikhs for Justice’ organisation, which has been making inflammatory statements.

The meeting also discussed various provisions of the Essential Commodities Amendment Act, 2020, and the financial health of the Food Corporation of India, which has implications for government procurement of foodgrains for the public distribution system.

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Printable version | Feb 28, 2021 10:16:59 PM |

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