What to anticipate from eighth spherical of talks between Centre and farmers

Vibha Sharma

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 7

Ahead of the eighth round of talks with Union ministers on Friday, BKU leader Rakesh Tikait on Thursday said the government can try as much as it can but farmers will not go back home till the three Acts are repealed. “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 today was a trailer, the full movie will be shown on January 26 (Republic Day when farmers have planned a tractor parade),” he said. Meanwhile, slamming the “attempts to defame the agitation”, Dr Darshan Pal of the Samyukta Kisan Morcha said “few anti-social elements are disturbing the protests by various activities”.

“The discipline committee is investigating reports and individuals concerned will be handed over to the police. We are again reminding the government ahead of tomorrow’s meeting that these laws should be completely repealed and remunerative MSP should be made into a legal right of all farmers.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 government and towards fulfilling our demands, we will continue to intensify the protests,” he said, making clear unions’ stance 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 or propose the choice of implementation of the three contentious laws on States, giving them the power/freedom to enforce them.

Farmer’ leaders say after what Punjab BJP leaders said after their meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi that “Maoists have infiltrated the movement, the PM 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. 

However, 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. 

Given the kind of support/traction the agitation has received from common people, the matter has moved out of the hands of unions’ leaders for any resolution on lesser terms, this farmer and government negotiators know well. “It is now a people’s movement,” says a union leader.  But as Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar has also pointed on many occasions, for the government “it is the matter of the entire country and not just Punjab and Haryana”. 

Politically, it is the question of 23 Lok Sabha seats of Punjab and Haryana and it remains to be seen how far the BJP-led Centre is willing to go to save those. Small and marginal farmers comprise almost 80 to 85 per cent. Plus if the government relents any further, it risks the chance of opening fronts of other such protests. 

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