Tomar says keep national interest in mind
NEW DELHI: Sticking to their key demand of the repeal of three farm laws to end their protest, farmer leaders on Friday told the government their “ghar wapsi” can happen only after “law wapsi” but the Centre insisted talks must be limited to contentious clauses and ruled out a complete withdrawal of Acts.
At the eighth round of negotiations with the 41-member representative group of protesting farmers, the government asserted the farm reform laws have been welcomed by a large section of farmers in various states and asked the unions to think about the interests of the entire country.
The talks remained inconclusive, and the two sides have agreed to meet for the next round of discussions on January 15.
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, held talks with unions at Vigyan Bhawan in the heart of the national capital, while thousands of farmers have stayed put at various Delhi borders to protest against the three laws they find pro-corporate and against the existing mandi and MSP procurement systems.
At the outset, Tomar appealed to unions for discussions on the laws, while farm leaders reiterated their demand that the new
Acts must be withdrawn, sources said, adding that the agriculture minister stressed on protecting the farmers’ interest of the entire country.
“Our ‘ghar wapsi’ (return to home) can happen only if you do ‘law wapsi’ (repeal of laws),” a farmer leader said at the meeting.
“Ideally, the Centre should not interfere in agriculture matters as various Supreme Court orders have declared farming as a state subject. It seems you (the government) do not want to resolve the issue as talks have been happening for so many days.
In that case, please give us a clear answer and we will go. Why waste everyone’s time,” another farmer leader said at the meeting.
All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee (AIKSCC) member Kavitha Kuruganti, who was also present in the meeting, said the government has told unions that it can not and will not repeal these laws.
Around one hour after the meeting, the three ministers stepped out of the discussion hall for their own internal consultations, after union leaders decided to observe silence while holding out papers with slogans including ‘Jeetenge ya Marenge’ (We will either win or die).
The union leaders, however, refused to take a lunch break and stayed put in the meeting room, a source said.
Before the start of the meeting, Tomar had also met senior BJP leader and home minister Amit Shah for about an hour.
On January 4, the seventh round of talks ended inconclusively as the unions stuck to their demand for a complete repeal of three farm laws, while the government wanted to discuss only the “problematic” clauses or other alternatives to end the stalemate.
Before that, in the sixth round of talks held on December 30 last year, some common ground was reached on two demandsdecriminalisation of stubble-burning and continuation of power subsidies.
Earlier in the day, Union minister of state for agriculture Kailash Choudhury had hoped that a resolution will come out of Friday’s meeting. Choudhury also said there was no demand for the repeal of the three farm laws at the first meeting and this demand came up much later.
Just before the meeting, Kuruganti had said: “If no solution arrived in today’s meeting, we will continue with our plan of tractor rally on January 26.”
“Our main demand is the repeal of the laws. We will not accept any amendments. The government is taking it as a prestige issue and not taking back the laws. But this is a life and death question for all farmers. There is no change in our stand since the beginning,” she added.