Farmers-Govt Talks Today: Will the Impasse End? Who Has Said What
The protests against the farm laws around the borders of Delhi-NCR have been going on for more than a month now.
Protesting farmers are all set to hold talks with the Centre for the sixth time at 2 pm on Wednesday, 30 December, over the three contentious farm laws that have been at the centre of large-scale protests, especially near the borders of Delhi-NCR.
With the talks taking place 22 days after the last round of discussions was held, the two sides would be hoping to break the deadlock. But, with the farmers insisting on the repeal of the three laws and the Centre not willing to offer anything beyond amendments to the Acts, the impasse may drag on into the new year.
In fact, on Tuesday, the farmers' unions, while officially accepting the invitation for the talks, reiterated that the discussion should be on the modalities of repealing the laws, providing a legal guarantee for MSP, changes to the ‘Commission Ordinance for Air Quality Management in the National Capital Region and adjoining areas, 2020’, and the Electricity Amendment Bill.
Speaking to news agency ANI on Wednesday, Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Committee (Punjab) Joint Secretary Sukhwinder Singh Sabra said, “We don’t think we will reach a solution even today. The three farm laws should be repealed.”
Meanwhile, Minister of State for Commerce and Industry, Som Prakash, expressed hope that the talks will be decisive. "Talks will be held on all issues, including MSP, with an open heart. I hope that farmers' agitation ends today," he told ANI.
What the Govt Has Said
On Monday, the Centre invited the 40 protesting farmer unions for talks on Wednesday, with Agriculture Secretary Sanjay Aggarwal saying the government is committed to "finding a logical solution on all relevant issues with a clear intention and an open mind".
Issues, including the three farm laws, MSP, and the Electricity Amendment Bill, would be taken up, the official pointed out.
Meanwhile, Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar on Monday reiterated the stance that the Modi-led government is committed to the welfare of farmers, while pointing out “no power could exert pressure and influence” on the prime minister.
PM Modi himself, at an event to flag off the 100th Kisan Rail on Monday, said, "We'll keep marching on the path of strengthening Indian agriculture and farmers with full devotion, with full force."
What the Farmers Have Said
Despite the government's unwillingness to offer any more than amendments to the laws, farm leaders have stuck to their demand that the three contentious laws should be withdrawn altogether.
The unions agreed "in-principle" to the government's proposal of talks on Wednesday. But Samyukt Kisan Morcha member Abhimanyu Kohar told PTI, "In our letter sent to the government on 26 December, we had clearly mentioned that repeal of three farm laws and legal guarantee for MSP should be part of the agenda for fresh talks, but despite this, the government in (a) letter today has not mentioned any specific agenda."
Meanwhile, Jamhuri Kisan Sabha General Secretary Kulwant Singh Sandhu also told The Indian Express that the "sequence of discussion of items on the agenda will be the same as has been given in our 26 December letter."
A day before the talks, Swaraj India President Yogendra Yadav said going by the statements made by the PM and other central ministers, it seems that the government is not ready to move forward with the process of repealing the three laws and providing a legal guarantee for MSP.
"There has been no indication that the government will move even one step forward from what they said on 5 December," he said.
What Has Happened So Far?
The protests against the farm laws around the borders of Delhi-NCR have been going on for more than a month now, leading to several roads being blocked, months after the three farm laws were passed in the Parliament in September under questionable circumstances.
Five rounds of talks have been held with the government so far, with the last one being with Union Home Minister Amit Shah on 8 December. A proposal for amendment and concessions was sent by the government to the farmers the next day, but was turned down by the latter.
While the government has posited the contentious laws as much-needed reforms in the agricultural sector that will give farmers more freedom to sell their produce, protesting farmers have argued that they will lead to the dismantling of the minimum support price system (MSP), and prioritise corporate interests.
The Opposition has also thrown their weight behind the protesters, with the ruling BJP blaming them for misleading farmers.
(With inputs from PTI and The Indian Express.)
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