WHILE STICKING to its stand of not repealing the new farm laws, the Centre is open to any suggestions that will help break the deadlock with the protesting farmers, including tweaking the laws or even setting up a committee as suggested by the Supreme Court.
With protesters camped at Delhi’s borders for nearly a month, official sources said, the Government has an open mind on ideas if the farm groups show signs of a reconciliatory approach. The Government is also formulating a response on the Supreme Court’s suggestion whether the implementation of the laws can be put on hold pending talks.
Conscious of the sentiments evoked by the protests in Punjab, senior Union Ministers, including Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and Home Minister Amit Shah, and top officials are also engaged in backroom channel talks with socio-political groups and Sikh community leaders to find a “middle path” and “bring the protesting farmers to the table for discussions again”.
On Tuesday, Tomar urged the farmers to decide on a date for talks two days after his Ministry invited farm unions for more discussion.
“But any concession from the Government can come only if the discussions are continued,” sources said.
According to sources, the Government is ready for the “long haul” and is “confident that the reform initiatives it has taken will benefit farmers”. But it is also conscious that “both the optics and the unrelenting protests” would dent its image, they said.
“Even if it is farmers from just one state, images of them sitting in protest do not look good for any government. But we feel that the Government has held enough discussions and deliberations over these laws. In fact, discussions on these have been on since 2001 (when the NDA government under AB Vajpayee was in power),” said sources.
“As of now, we have no alternate plans to end this. No solution to this can be found unless the discussions continue. The situation may change, there may be some middle path, but there should be discussions. Without talks, it can go on for a long time,” sources said.
On Tuesday, during an interaction with members of the Foreign Correspondents’ Club, Tomar said: “The Government is ready to discuss every suggestion. We are ready to discuss with an open mind and find a solution to any provision of law that goes against the farmer…By discussing again and again, we reach a solution…I think we will find a way soon and will move towards a solution.”
The Agriculture Minister said the focus of the laws is to benefit farmers by “freeing them from the shackles” of the (APMC) mandis. “These reforms have been made in the interest of farmers and will bring about a new era in Indian agriculture,” he said.
Stating that the Government is committed to reforms, Tomar said: “When the process of reform begins, first people will make jokes, then there will be protests, and then acceptance. We are going through this process.”
Tomar’s remarks came two days after his Ministry invited farm leaders for a fresh round of talks and urged them to “choose a date according to their convenience”. The previous five rounds of official talks remained inconclusive.
Last week, the Supreme Court had asked the Attorney General if the Centre could provide a commitment that the farm laws will not be implemented while it hears a clutch of petitions seeking the removal of farmers from protest sites.
The Court also said it was considering the setting up of an “impartial and independent” panel of agriculture experts and farmers’ unions to resolve the impasse.
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