Farm laws: Centre wants clause-by-clause discussion with protesting farmers
During the ninth round of talks with farmers on Friday, the Centre insisted on clause-by-clause discussion, a departure from the blanket demand of protesters to repeal the three laws. The government suggested that farmers must form their own informal group which will make a proposal, an idea they junked. The next round of talks will happen on January 19. Here are more details.
Farmers, protesting at Delhi's gates since November, have reiterated they won't return until the farm laws are repealed. They argued that laws will leave them at mercy of big corporate players, a claim the Centre disputed. After several rounds of talks failed, the Supreme Court formed a four-member committee to resolve the issue. One member quit after questions on the panel's impartiality were raised.
At yesterday's meeting, the first such interaction since the committee was formed, both sides spoke cordially with farmers' unions saying they hoped to arrive at a solution while directly talking with the Centre. Agriculture Minister Narendra Tomar said it was wrong of farmers to say the Centre hadn't budged, reminding them that it also sent proposed amendments. His colleague Piyush Goyal was also present.
An official, privy to the developments told TOI, Centre was more insistent on a clause-by-clause discussion yesterday. When the farmers' unions demanded a legal guarantee for Minimum Support Price (MSP), the government discussed it for some time but highlighted that unions had been demanding a repeal for weeks. The government said it would participate in the SC-mandated process to end the impasse.
The farmers argued that since SC stayed the implementation of laws, the Centre must repeal them. Tomar responded that as the court put a hold on the enforcement, the laws must be discussed extensively. Farmer leaders Darshan Pal and Jagmohan Singh informed that Goyal spoke about features of the Essential Commodities Act at the meeting. The farmers demanded that the previous Act is restored.
On the government's suggestion that they should form one informal group that can list their expectations, the farmers argued it was pointless as only a few speak with the Centre, anyway. Bharatiya Kisan Union (Ugrahan) President Joginder Singh Ugrahan revealed that they raised an objection to National Investigation Agency (NIA) sending notices to those supporting their agitation. Reportedly, three transporters have been sent notices.
"We raised questions over NIA sending notices to transporters, who are supporting the farmers' struggle, and harassment of people who are financially supporting families whose bread-winners have died during protests," Singh said, adding that government wants to break the agitation using a central agency.
After the meeting, Tomar hoped that farmers make efforts to take the discussion forward. "We even told them that if they so wish, they can form their own informal group, of those who can discuss laws properly, their expectations of the government, what is in the laws that is against the farmers," he said. He also claimed the government was concerned that farmers were sitting in the cold.