Government meets farmers: No headway after eighth round of talks
The eighth round of talks between the government and protesting farmers on Friday failed to resolve the intense agitation that has been continuing for over a month. During the talks, the protesting farmers continued to push for a complete rollback of three agricultural laws that sparked the protests, while the government sought to only discuss the contentious clauses of the laws.
Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar, Commerce and Food Minister Piyush Goyal, and Minister of State for Commerce Som Parkash, represented the government during the talks with the 41-member representative group of the agitating farmers. The talks were aimed to address the farmers' demands for the repeal of the contentious laws and a legal guarantee on Minimum Support Prices (MSPs) for their produce.
For months, farmers have been protesting against the three farm laws passed in September. The protests intensified in November-end as thousands of farmers from several states reached Delhi, camping at the city's borders. Farmers fear that by allowing trade outside APMC mandis, the laws will weaken the mandis and they would be deprived of MSPs, leaving them vulnerable to exploitation by corporations.
According to PTI, one farmer leader said, "Our 'ghar wapsi' can happen only if you do 'law wapsi,' (We will only return home after the laws are repealed)." The next round of talks has been scheduled for January 15, 2021.
After the meeting, Tomar told reporters that no decision could be made. The government urged farmers to give an alternative to repealing the laws, he said, assuring that the government would consider such options. "But no option could be presented, so the meeting concluded," he added. Tomar further said that there are some farmers who support the laws, too.
"There was a heated discussion," All India Kisan Sabha General Secretary Hannan Mollah said, "We don't want anything other than the repeal of laws." Mollah said the agitating farmers will go ahead with their plan to stage a tractor rally on Republic Day (January 26) if the laws aren't repealed. "We don't wish to have clause-wise discussions," Bharatiya Kisan Union spokesperson Rakesh Tikait added.
Ahead of Friday's talks, Tomar had met Union Home Minister Amit Shah. Tomar had also met a Sikh priest named Baba Lakha Singh of Ludhiana's Nanaksar Gurudwara to mediate the talks. The priest was among the invitees for the Ayodhya Ram temple Bhoomi Pujan. Baba Lakha Singh said the talks were "good" and assured the matter would be resolved at the earliest.