The seventh round of talks between agitating farmers and the central government to resolve the impasse over the three farm laws and a legal guarantee for minimum support price (MSP) yet again failed to make headway. Both sides dug in their heels before deciding to reconvene on January 8.
Officials said while the central government wanted farmers to discuss the three Acts clause by clause, the farmers wanted nothing less than an assurance of total repeal.
The central government in its submission to farmers said the government was willing to discuss the Acts threadbare with farmers from the rest of the country before moving ahead.
“The Centre wants the unions to raise specific issues in the three farm laws they have problems with. Both sides need to find a solution. We are hopeful of a solution on January 8. Monday’s talks were cordial, but inconclusive. The unions refused to budge,” Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar told reporters after the meeting.
He said if the unions didn’t trust the government, they would not have come forward for negotiations.
Meanwhile, all eyes are on the next hearing of the Supreme Court on a batch of petitions challenging the blockade of main entry points to Delhi this week.
The apex court in its earlier hearings had asked the central government whether the implementation of the Acts could be held up while the hearing on the case was still on.
Farmers have been camping at the Delhi border, protesting against the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020, the Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020, and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act.
Enacted in September last year, the three farm laws have been projected by the central government as major reforms in the agriculture sector, promising to remove the middlemen and allowing the farmers to sell anywhere in the country.
However, the protesting farmers have expressed apprehension that the new laws would pave the way for eliminating the safety cushion of the MSP and do away with the mandi system, leaving them at the mercy of big corporates.
The government has repeatedly asserted that the MSP and mandi systems will stay and has accused the Opposition of inciting the farming community.
So far, six rounds of talks have been held between the agitating farmers and the central government on the three Acts.
Monday’s meeting began with paying respects to the farmers who lost their lives during the ongoing stir, informed sources.
On December 30, the sixth round of talks was held between the government and the farmer unions, where some common ground was reached on two demands — decriminalisation of stubble-burning and continuation of power subsidies.
However, no breakthrough could be reached on the two main demands of the protesting farmers — a repeal of the three recent farm laws and a legal guarantee to the MSP procurement system.