The Centre has called for another round of talks with protesting farmers on December 5, after the meeting between the Union ministers and representatives of 35 farmers group at Vigyan Bhawan on Thursday failed to break the impasse.
Even as the farmers’ representatives stuck to their demand for the repeal of the new farm laws, the government assured them all their “valid concerns” would be addressed. Follow farmers protest LIVE updates
Agriculture minister Narendra Singh Tomar, who led the government side at the talks, reiterated that MSP (Minimum Support Price) would not be touched, and that the Centre will contemplate about further strengthening APMCs and their increasing their usage.
“There is no ego involved and the government has agreed to discuss and consider with an open mind all major points of concerns among farmers about the three new laws, including on strengthening of the APMC (Agriculture Produce Marketing Committee) mandi system, tax parity with proposed private mandis and freedom for farmers to approach higher courts for any dispute resolution,” Tomar said, urging the farmers to end their agitation.
However, the farmer leaders rejected the government’s position, with some of them threatening to boycott further meetings if no solution was found. They even refused lunch, tea and water offered to them during almost eight-hour-long hectic parleys.
“Discussions are over from our side. Our leaders have said they will not attend further meetings if a solution is not given today by the government,” said Pratibha Shinde, AIKSCC (All India Kishan Sangharsh Coordination Committee) working group member and president of Lok Sangharsh Morcha, which represents farmers of Maharashtra and Gujarat.
Another farmer leader, Kulwant Singh Sandhu, said the government made many proposals, including on MSP and the procurement system, which would be discussed among the farmer organisations on Friday, before the next meeting with the government on Saturday.
Besides Tomar, the government side included Railways and Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal and Minister of State for Commerce Som Parkash, who is also an MP from Punjab.
The farmers’ strike near the borders of Delhi has entered its eighth day as they refuse to budge on their demand to repeal the new farm laws. The fear relating to the weakening of APMC mandis and minimum support price (MSP) regime are among the main factors behind the ongoing protests. Emphasising that their demand for repeal of the new farm laws was “non-negotiable”, the farmers have also threatened to block other roads leading to Delhi if their demands are not met. On Wednesday, the farmers demanded that the government call a special session of the Parliament to repeal the contentious farm laws.
The government had rejected the demand for repealing the laws in the previous meeting that was held on December 1.
Meanwhile, the Congress today demanded that the winter session of Parliament be convened at the earliest to discuss the ongoing farmers’ protest.
The winter session of Parliament must be convened at the earliest “in view of the farmers’ unrest, Chinese aggression, COVID crisis and the sliding economy”, Congress leader Manish Tewari said in a statement.
“It is all the more important to convene the parliament for the winter session in view of the farmers’ uprising when tens of thousands of farmers from different parts of the country are protesting around Delhi to seek the repealing of three controversial agricultural laws,” the former Union minister said.
Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh also met Union Home Minister Amit Shah at the latter’s residence on Thursday and urged the Centre to to rethink its stand on the contentious laws.
Reiterating Punjab’s position seeking early resolution of the deadlock, Amarinder Singh said the issue was adversely impacting the state’s economy and also posed a serious danger to national security.
“Discussion is going on between farmers and Centre, there’s nothing for me to resolve. I reiterated my opposition in my meeting with Home Minister & requested him to resolve the issue as it affects the economy of my state & security of the nation,” Amarinder Singh said following the meeting.
In a separate announcement, former Chief Minister of Punjab and Shiromani Akali Dal leader Parkash Singh Badal returned his Padma Vibhushan today, in a show of solidarity with the protesting farmers.
In a letter to the President Ram Nath Kovind, Badal said, “I am who I am because of the people, especially the common farmer. Today when he has lost more than his honour, I see no point in holding on to the Padma Vibhushan honour.”
Badal said the farmers were waging a bitter struggle in the severe cold just to secure their fundamental right to life. Badal said he had known the award conferred to him to be an acknowledgement of his “commitment to the people in which the farmers featured most prominently”. “I owe it to them,” he wrote.