Tribune News Service
New Delhi, December 1
The much-anticipated third round of talks between farmers’ unions, including 32 Punjab ‘jathebandis’, and Union ministers Narendra Singh Tomar, Piyush Goyal and Som Prakash ended inconclusively with farmer leaders rejecting the Centre’s proposal to form a five-member committee to look into their objections and study the concerns.
The farmers’ unions told the government that “such committees had led to no results and outcomes in the past” and that “the time for committees is over and they now want a concrete decision”.
Though according to an official statement, Agriculture Minister Tomar proposed to constitute an expert committee “to put forth the issues of farmers so as to resolve them with mutual consent but representatives of farmer unions suggested that all the representatives will attend further round of discussions with the government to resolve the matter amicably”.
Various issues related to “Farm Reform Acts were discussed in cordial atmosphere”, officials said.
Though ‘jathebandis’ said they also rejected the offer of tea during the talks and instead asked ministers to join them for ‘kheer’ and ‘langar’ at the border.
“We just want the black laws to be rolled back,” they told Tomar who also asked farmer leaders to “identify specific issues related to Farm Reform Acts and share with the government tomorrow for consideration”.
These issues will be discussed during the fourth round of meeting to be held on December 3.
“The Government of India is always committed to protect the interest of farmers and is always open for discussions for farmers’ welfare,” Tomar said.
Following the three-hour meeting, farmer leaders said the agitation at Delhi borders will continue.
Representatives from Uttar Pradesh and other states are also demanding an equal footing in consultations.
While farmers have managed to get their way by ensuring an “unconditional meeting”, it remains to be seen what course further discussions take.
Union leaders claimed the minister told them that “statutes could have deficiencies and that the government is willing to look into objections and deficiencies pointed to by the unions and consider changing the same”.
While farmers are willing to settle for nothing but a complete rollback of five laws (the three “black” laws, the newly-enacted ordinance on Air Quality Management in Delhi-NCR and the Electricity Bill 2020) the government too is firm on its stance.
Even if it does become agreeable to some amendments, farmer leaders say that “more than 90 per cent of the laws are wrong. If the government wants new laws, it will have to first consult farmers. These are like a death sentence for the farmers and we will not allow corporate in Punjab. The government believes it can tire us but the agitation will continue. It only has two options, either it takes back the laws or use force”.
A leader from Madhya Pradesh, Shiv Kumar Sharma (Kakkaji), said farmers “will not go back empty-handed from Delhi”.
Observers believe to carry on protests forever is not tenable for farmers and for the government as they are “bad optics”.
Farmers are a huge electorate and these protests cannot be equated with earlier agitations, like anti-CAA protests at Shaheen Bagh.
The BJP is in the know of this as the talks had followed a high-level meeting of the BJP top brass, including Home Minister Amit Shah and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh.