Government, farmer unions to continue talks

INDIA-FARMS-PROTESTS

New Delhi: Three central ministers and farmers unions on Friday committed to continue holding direct talks to resolve the over-one-month-long deadlock over three agri laws, with Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar urging farmer leaders to be flexible in their approach as has been done by the government.

The ninth round of talks between protesting farmer unions and three central ministers got underway here on Friday afternoon and discussions were held on all the three laws before the lunch break.

Besides Tomar, Railways, Commerce and Food Minister Piyush Goyal and Minister of State for Commerce Som Parkash are holding the talks with the representatives of around 40 farmer unions at the Vigyan Bhawan here.

"Both the government and farmer unions have reaffirmed their commitment to continue with the direct dialogue process," All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee member Kavita Kuruganti, who is part of the meeting, said.

The Supreme Court on January 11 had stayed the implementation of the three laws till further orders and appointed a four-member panel to resolve the impasse.

"In his opening remarks, Tomar ji said you keep saying that the government is adamant and making it an issue of ego, even though we have accepted several demands. Don't you think you should be flexible and not stick to one single demand of repealing the laws," said Baljit Singh Bali of Punjab Kisan Morcha.

Farmer leader Darshan Pal said there was a good discussion on all three laws. "There is a possibility of some resolution. We are positive," he added.

Another leader Rakesh Tikait said: "Government has told us that solution should be found through dialogue and not the court. Everyone is of the same views. There is a possibility of some solution."

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.

Bhartiya Kisan Union president Bhupinder Singh Mann had on Thursday recused himself from the committee appointed by the apex court.

Shetkari Sanghatana (Maharashtra) president Anil Ghanwat, International Food Policy Research Institute's Pramod Kumar Joshi and agriculture economist Ashok Gulati are the other three members on the panel.

On January 8, the eighth round of meeting remained inconclusive as the Centre ruled out repealing the three contentious laws claiming nationwide support for the reforms. However, farmer leaders had said that they were ready to fight till death and their 'ghar waapsi' would happen only after 'law waapsi'.

In the sixth round held on December 30 last year, some common ground was reached on two demands -- decriminalisation of stubble-burning and continuation of power subsidies.

Enacted in September 2020, the government has presented these laws as major farm reforms aimed at increasing farmers' income, but the protesting farmers have raised concerns that these legislations would weaken the minimum support price (MSP) and "mandi" (wholesale market) systems and leave them at the mercy of big corporations.

The government has maintained that these apprehensions are misplaced and has ruled out a repeal of the laws.

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