New Delhi, January 22
Farmer unions on Friday told the government that they wanted a complete repeal of three contentious farm laws even as the Centre asked them to reconsider its proposal for putting the Acts on hold for 12-18 months, as the two sides met for their 11th round of talks to resolve the nearly-two-month-long deadlock.
It has been almost three hours now but the meeting has not yet resumed. Sources say Union Ministers have told farmer leaders that they had given the “best proposal” and that they should try to build consensus around it.
Notably, a section among Punjab unions were in favour of accepting the government’s offer. They include some “small unions from Doaba” and similar jathebandis.
Unions have claimed “threats” to union leaders namely Darshan Pal and Rakesh Tikait.
In the last round of meetings held on Wednesday, the government had offered to put on hold the three laws and set up a joint committee to find solutions. However, after internal consultations on Thursday, the farmer unions decided to reject the offer and stick to their two major demands -the repeal of the three laws and a legal guarantee of the minimum support price (MSP).
“We told the government that we would not agree to anything other than the repeal of the laws. But the minister asked us to discuss separately again and rethink on the matter and convey the decision,” farmer leader Darshan Pal told PTI during a break after the first session.
BKU leader Rakesh Tikait said: “We conveyed our position clearly to the government that we want a repeal of the laws and not a suspension. The minister (Narendra Singh Tomar) asked us to reconsider our decision.”
Tikait said the farmer leaders are discussing internally on this issue. “After the lunch break, we will convey our decision,” he added.
The eleventh round of talks between protesting farmer unions and three central ministers began at around 1 pm, but not much headway was visible in the first few hours of the meeting.
Some leaders had apprehensions that the movement would lose its momentum once the farmers went away from Delhi borders.
Harpal Singh, president of Bhartiya Kisan Union – Asli Arajnaitik, said, “Even if we accept the government’s offer, our fellow brothers sitting at Delhi borders will not accept anything other than a repeal of the laws. They will not spare us. What achievement will we show to them?”
He also questioned the government’s credibility, alleging it was difficult to believe that they would keep their word on putting the laws on hold for 18 months.
“We will die here but we will not return without getting the laws repealed,” Singh said.
Along with Union Agriculture Minister Tomar, Railways, Commerce and Food Minister Piyush Goyal and Minister of State for Commerce Som Parkash are also participating in the talks with representatives of 41 farmer unions at the Vigyan Bhawan here.
In a full general body meeting on Thursday, Samyukt Kisan Morcha, the umbrella body of the protesting unions, rejected the government’s proposal.
“A full repeal of three central farm Acts and enacting a legislation for remunerative MSP for all farmers were reiterated as the pending demands of the movement,” the Morcha said in a statement.
Thousands of farmers, mainly from Punjab, Haryana and western Uttar Pradesh, are protesting at various border points of Delhi for over a month now against the three laws.
Farmer groups have alleged these laws will end the mandi and MSP procurement systems and leave the farmers at the mercy of big corporates, even as the government has rejected these apprehensions as misplaced.
On January 11, the Supreme Court stayed the implementation of the three laws till further orders and appointed a four-member panel to resolve the impasse.
Bhartiya Kisan Union president Bhupinder Singh Mann had recused himself from the committee appointed by the apex court.
Shetkari Sanghatana (Maharashtra) president Anil Ghanwat and agriculture economists Pramod Kumar Joshi and Ashok Gulati, the other three members on the panel, started the consultation process with stakeholders on Thursday. — PTI with TNS