The seventh round of talks between the central leadership and farm union leaders remained inconclusive on Monday. The government ruled out the roll-back of the three contentious agricultural laws and the protesters refused to call off their agitation till that happens.
The next round of discussions to resolve the deadlock over laws enacted in September last year will be held on January 8.
The government, represented by Union ministers Narendra Singh Tomar, Piyush Goyal and Som Prakash, told the delegation of 41 participating farm union leaders it would review any clause the protesters had problem with. The Centre’s representatives also asked the farmer leaders to point out what they considered objectionable in the legislations, a farm leader said, which resulted in a standoff.
Two key demands of farmers – complete roll-back of three farm laws farmers say will hurt their livelihoods and a law guaranteeing minimum support prices (MSP) for farm produce – were on agenda during Monday’s talks .
“The government said it wanted to go clause by clause of the three farm laws. It said laws can’t be repealed. We told them that there is only one way, which is to Repeal the laws and bring a law guaranteeing minimum support prices,” farm leader Joginder Singh Ugrahan told HT from inside the venue over phone. The government also wanted to first discuss a proposal on MSP, which the farmers rejected before heading into a snack break.
Before the meeting at Delhi’s Vigyan Bhavan began, both parties observed a two-minute silence as a mark of tribute to the 50 protesting farmers who died during the agitation.
During the sixth round of negotiations, some common ground was reached on concerns over rise in power tariff and penalties for stubble burning. The Centre had agreed to spare farmers of heavy fines for crop-residue burning, as provided for in an anti-pollution ordinance, and to continue the current mechanism of giving subsidised power for agricultural use.
Unlike in the last round, the Union ministers did not share lunch brought by the farmers.
The Samyukt Kisan Morcha, the platform of farm unions, has hardened its stand, saying thousands of farmers will drive into the Capital in their tractors to hold their own Republic Day parade if their demands are not met by Jan 26.
Thousands of farmers, mainly from Punjab and Haryana, have been protesting at Delhi borders against the laws for over a month now. The legislations – Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020, the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020 and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act 2020 – are aimed at liberalising farm trade in the country. The farmers, however, say the laws will impact their livelihoods and income.