Tribune News Service
New Delhi, January 8
The eighth round of talks between protesting farmer unions and three central ministers ended inconclusively on Friday yet again. The next round of talks has been planned for January 15, meaning that the farmers will be celebrating the Lohri at the Delhi borders.
Only one point was discussed, as the farmers insisted on repealing the Bills while Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar said that they should discuss the Acts, farmer leaders refused the offer. There was also no discussion on MSP.
Farmer leaders said that they are preparing for January 26. Agriculture Minister Tomar was saying “useless” things, they said.
Kavitha Kuruganti of Mahila Kisan Adhikar Manch called it “breakdown of talks”. The government said that it is best to leave this to the Supreme Court to decide.
Did not ask Baba Lakha Singh for mediation, says Tomar
Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar said during the meeting discussion was held but there was no conclusion on the issue.
“The government said that if farmers give alternative other than repeal they can discuss the issue. January 15 was decided as the next date of meeting with mutual consent.
“We have not approached anyone. There are many people who support the laws. The government gives time to talk to everyone. Baba Lakha Singh also wanted to discuss the issue. I also told him about the government’s views and asked him to speak to unions. We did not ask Baba Lakha Singh for mediation,” he said in response to a question whether the government had asked Baba Lakha Singh for mediation.
Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar, Railways, Commerce and Food Minister Piyush Goyal and Minister of State for Commerce Som Parkash, who is an MP from Punjab, were holding the talks with the representatives of around 40 farmer unions at the Vigyan Bhawan
Tomar appealed to the unions to discuss the three bills keeping in mind the country. The farmer leaders, however, insisted that the bills be taken back.
After Tomar insisted that several unions were agreeable to the laws, Balbir Singh Rajewal told him that jathebandis and unions would only agree if the laws were taken back.
He also said that agriculture was a state subject, and that the central government cannot impinge on the subject.
“It is an established fact that you cannot interfere on the subject of agriculture. But you get your secretary and your joint secretary to work on it, and they keep coming up with excuses (to interfere). I have a list of cases in which the Supreme Court’s full bench has ruled that the central government cannot interfere on the subject,” he said, but added that he did not want to argue over this point for much longer.
They also told Union Ministers that some BJP leaders from Punjab are making baseless allegations (hurling abuses at them and the movement) against farmers, to which the Union Minister said they were not aware of any such development.
Meanwhile, the Government has made it clear it cannot and will not repeal the Acts, according to a union leader.
Farmer leaders said they were not a political party. “It is only if you return the bills will we go back,” the leaders added.
After “yes or no” slogan, farmers today coined two more slogans “bill wapsi toh ghar wapsi” and “Ya marange ya jitange” (will die or win).
There has been no significant breakthrough at the meeting.
While after the January 4 talks, it is more or less clear the government has ceded all it intends to persuade farmers to end the agitation, speculations are it may “offer/propose the choice of implementation of the three contentious laws on the states, giving them the power/freedom to enforce them”.
Ahead of their eighth round of meeting with farmers, Union Ministers Narendra Singh Tomar and Piyush Goyal met Home Minister Amit Shah.
Tomar, who expressed hope of positive outcome at the meeting, said both sides had to move one step forward.
However, farmer leaders say that after what Punjab BJP leaders said after their meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah — that “Maoists have infiltrated the movement, the Prime Minister knows best and farmers should listen to him, it is clear the government has not understood the gravity of the situation” — it is not about which party is in power in which state, it is about farmers,” they say.
Ahead of the eighth round of talks with the Union Ministers, BKU leader Rakesh Tikait has already said the government can try as much as it wants, farmers will not go back home till the three Acts were repealed.
Also read: Ahead of talks, BJP leaders meet Shah
“The government still has time till tomorrow. It can make a law on MSP and take back the three laws and fulfil demands of the agitation. The tractor march was a trailer. The full movie will be shown on January 26 (Republic Day when farmers have planned a tractor parade)” he said.
Tikait also said he was expecting some sort of proposal from the Union Government.
Speaking to The Tribune at the Ghazipur border, Tikait said he was hopeful of a proposal from the government.
“We think that the government will come with a proposal in today’s meeting and if we arrive at any understanding then we will have some more meetings to put the final touch,” Tikait said ahead of the crucial meeting.
“And if we fail, then we will have tea and snacks with them and continue our protest. Hum to yehi baithe hai kahi nahi ja rahe hai (we are not going anywhere),” he added.
The farm leaders will again press the government to repeal the three Acts and bring a law on MSP.
“Our demands remain the same and we are firm on it. It will be the sole talking point of today’s meeting,” the farm leader said.
“We are again reminding the government ahead of tomorrow’s meeting that these laws should be completely repealed and remunerative MSP should be made into a legal right of all farmers. We will never accept the amendments offered by the government, and towards fulfilling our demands, we will continue to intensify the protests,” Dr Darshan Pal of the Samyukta Kisan Morcha said, making the unions’ stance clear at the meeting.
The farm leaders are scheduled to meet the government representatives, led by Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar, on Friday.
But while farmers threaten escalation, it seems the government, too, is prepared for a long haul.
Sources say the government has already relented on the proposed Power Act, the Ordinance on stubble pollution and offered amendments to the three Acts.
“They (farmers) should tell us something new, we are ready to discuss the three Acts clause by clause,” they say.