Making headway in talks for the first time since farmers opposed to the new agriculture laws showed up at the gates of Delhi more than a month ago, the Centre Wednesday said there had been “mutual consensus” on two of the four demands raised by the farmer unions. The two sides agreed to meet again on January 4.
The Centre agreed to “decriminalise” stubble burning by excluding farmers from the ambit of the ‘Commission for the Air Quality Management in National Capital Region and Adjoining Areas Ordinance 2020’, and drop those provisions of the draft Electricity Amendment Bill, 2020, which are intended to change the existing mode of subsidy payment to consumers.
There was no headway on the demands to repeal the three newly enacted farm laws and provide legal guarantee on the MSP or minimum support price. These will be discussed when the two sides meet again next week.
Emerging from the meeting, Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar said, “There has been mutual consensus (aapsi razamandi) between the government and farmer unions on two of four issues that union leaders placed for discussion at the meeting today.”
He said union leaders wanted farmers kept out of the ambit of the Air Quality Management Ordinance.
“The government told them that we are aware of their concern and both sides have agreed on this matter,” he said. “Their objections were related to criminal action against farmers, we will decriminalise it.”
On the draft Electricity Amendment Bill, Tomar said, “The unions demanded that the existing system of power subsidy paid by the state to the consumers should continue. Mutual consensus has been reached on that demand as well.”
“There were four points on the agenda. Out of these, aapsi razamandi (mutual consensus) has been reached on two — or 50 per cent. The meeting took place in a very pleasant atmosphere,” he said.
“Unions have been demanding the repeal of the three farm laws and we have tried to tell them that the government is ready to discuss provisions on which farmers have problems,” he said.
“Similarly, on MSP, the government has been saying that the MSP will continue and the government is ready to give it in writing. We are firm on that, but they feel that the MSP should get the (legal) guarantee. So, discussions will continue in respect to the laws and MSP. We will meet again on January 4 and discuss these subjects… I am hopeful that there will be a consensus between the government and the unions, and we will be able to find a solution,” Tomar said.
A ministerial committee, headed by Tomar and also comprising Food Minister Piyush Goyal and Minister of State for Commerce and Industry Som Prakash, represented the government side in the talks while the farmer unions sent 41 representatives – this time, the addition was the 41st representative: BKU general secretary Yaduveer Singh Malik.
The meeting, which began at 2.30 pm, ended around 7 pm.
During the meeting, sources said, government representatives proposed a committee to deliberate on the demands of the farmers regarding the three farm laws. But farmer leaders did not agree to the proposal.
Commenting on the outcome of the meeting, Samyukt Kisan Morcha leader Darshan Pal said, “The meeting is not 50 per cent successful, it’s only 25 per cent successful as consensus has emerged on two smaller issues while the two bigger issues still remain unresolved.”
Joginder Singh Ugrahan, BKU (Ugrahan) president, said: “When we started the meeting, we were not hopeful, but as the talks proceeded, they agreed to two of our demands. However, our main demands of repeal of farm laws and purchase of crops on MSP are still pending. These will be discussed on January 4. Finally, something positive has come out of these talks.”
Jagmohan Singh Patiala, BKU (Dakaunda) general secretary and working committee member of All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee (AIKSCC), said: “The central government is bowing to public anger. This is the reason that they have agreed to take back the proposed electricity Act, and also not include farmers in the criminal offence provision in the environment Ordinance. On January 4, they will talk on our main demands for repeal of farm laws and purchase of crops on MSP. We are all united and determined… considering the positive gesture of the government, we have postponed the tractor march of Samyukt Kisan Morcha to January 4.”
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