Settlement on 2 factors, subsequent talks on January 4

Tribune News Service

New Delhi/Chandigarh, December 30

The government and protesting farm unions reached some common ground today to resolve farmers’ concerns over rise in power tariff and penalties for stubble burning, but the two sides remained deadlocked over the main contentious issues of the repeal of three farm laws and a legal guarantee for MSP.

After nearly five hours of negotiations between three Union ministers and a 41-member group representing thousands of farmers protesting on Delhi borders, Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar said resolution had been reached on two of the four points on agenda.

Speaking to the media outside Vigyan Bhawan, Tomar said discussions would recommence on the remaining two points on January 4 at 2 pm. The concerns of the farmers on the draft Electricity (Amendment) Bill and the Air Quality Management Ordinance (containing penal provisions for stubble burning) had been addressed, he said.

Tomar lauded the farm leaders for maintaining peace and discipline during their protest, but urged them to send the elderly, women and the children back home due to the extreme weather. He said the union leaders insisted on repealing the laws, but the government side tried to explain to them the benefits of the Acts and sought to know the specific points they feared. On legal guarantee for MSP (minimum support price), the minister said the government had already declared that it was ready to give a written assurance. Tomar was accompanied by Railways Minister Piyush Goyal and Minister of State for Commerce Som Parkash.

Farm union leaders Balbir Singh Rajewal, Ruldu Singh and Gurnam Singh Charuni said after the meeting that they had decided to defer tomorrow’s tractor march from Singhu to Tikri via the Kundli-Manesar-Palwal Expressway. The farm leaders, however, said they had made it clear to the government that decision on repealing the laws would be key to ending the impasse.

While the three ministers joined the farm leaders to share their ‘langar’ during the lunch break, the union representatives accepted the beverage offered by the government during the evening tea break. In the last five meetings, farmer leaders had refused to accept even water offered by the government.

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