It took two months of farmers’ protest and 10 meetings for the government to take a step back on the three contentious farm laws, but finally they have proposed to stay the legislations for the next one and a half years during the meeting held on January 20.
In Wednesday’s meeting, Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar also proposed that the government is ready to file an affidavit in the Supreme Court with regard to the proposed stay on the laws to dispel doubts in the minds of farmers’ unions.
He emphasised that both sides should reach a consensus before the meeting ends. “Today is Guru Gobind Singh’s Prakash Parv; therefore, both of us should reach a consensus on this occasion before the meeting ends,” he reportedly said, urging the members of the Samyukt Kisan Morcha, an umbrella body of 40 farmer organisations, which is engaged in talks with the government.
“We told the farmers’ unions that the government is ready to put the farm laws on hold for one or one and half year. I am happy that farmers’ unions have taken this very seriously and said that they would consider it tomorrow and convey their decision on January 22,” Tomar told the media after the meeting.
He further said, “I feel that talks are progressing in the right direction, and there is a possibility of finding a resolution on January 22.”
With regard to the demand that the minimum support price (MSP) be guaranteed legally, the government has offered to constitute a committee to take call on it. Confirming the development, Kalwant Singh Sandhu, general secretary of the Jamhuri Kisan Sabha, Punjab, said a breakthrough was reached in today’s meeting. “The government proposed after lunch break that it is ready to stay the implementations of the three laws for next one-and-a-half years. With regard to the MSP, the government proposed setting up a committee to take a call.”
Also read: 2 Months On, 60 Lives Lost, 9 Rounds of Talks: Protesting Farmers are a Picture of Hope
Another participant of the meeting said that no resolution was reached till lunch break, with both sides sticking on their stated positions. “But after we asked the government to clear the air on our two demands, they proposed the stay and appointment of a panel. We will discuss the proposals among 32 farmers’ unions of Punjab tomorrow at 10 AM. And finally, the same will be discussed at the 2 PM in the meeting of the Samyukta Kisan Morcha, comprising 500 farmers’ body from across the country. Accordingly, we will come to a conclusion and inform the government on January 22,” he said.
He further added that the government was under pressure because of the huge ‘farmers’ parade’ on January 26 (Republic Day).
Talking about the developments, Bharatiya Kisan Union (Ugrahan) president Joginder Singh Ugrahan said, “The government has said that it is ready to suspend the laws for 1.5 years. We told the ministers there is no point in suspending the laws and made it clear that we want the repeal of the laws. We will revert to the government after discussing the proposals in our meeting.”
What Happened in the Meeting
As the two sides assembled for talks at Delhi’s Vigyan Bhawan, farmer leaders registered a strong protest against the National Investigation Agency (NIA) serving notices to peasants, their supporters, activists and journalists and demanded that the summons be withdrawn. Responding to this, Tomar assured them that innocents won’t be targeted and that they will look into the matter.
The government then offered to amend the three contentious farm laws, but representatives of the farmer leaders reportedly did not move from their demand of a complete repeal of the legislations.
The union leaders told Tomar that the laws are unconstitutional and that he had presented the laws despite agreeing in Parliament that agriculture and agri-marketing fall within state subjects. While Tomar accepted the farmers’ argument, he refused to withdraw the laws, requesting them to approach the Supreme Court to get the Acts struck down.
Meanwhile, asserting their previous demand, Bharatiya Kisan Union leader Rakesh Tikait said, “The government offered few amendments in the laws, but we reiterated we do not want anything less than a complete roll back of the laws.”
Following this, the government said it is ready to stay the laws for a year. Tomar said if farmers are doubtful, the government will file an affidavit in the Supreme Court in this regard. But the farmers refused to accept this proposal as well, maintaining their previous stand that the laws must be repealed.
Also read: Farmers’ Protest: Govt Accepts 2 of 4 Demands, Deadlock Continues on Repeal of 3 Agri Laws
Farmers then insisted to bring the second demand that the minimum support price (MSP) be given a legal guarantee. But the government initially appeared to be avoiding any discussion on the issue of MSP. Tikait said the government kept insisting on first discussing the three laws and wants to take up the MSP issue later.
After the break, the farmer leaders also raised the issue of ministers reaching late for the meeting and delaying after their breaks. In the second half, however, the issue of MSP was discussed. Gurnam Singh Chaduni, a farmers’ leader from Haryana, demanded a guarantee of total procurement of 23 crops for which the government announces the MSP, to which Tomar responded by saying that the government does not have Rs 17 lakh crore to provide MSP.
BKU general secretary Yudhvir Singh said, “The stalemate is continuing over the three laws and I don’t think any solution will emerge in these meetings. Both sides are adamant on their position.”
Supreme Court Refuses to Issue Injunction Against Proposed Tractor Rally
Earlier in the day, a Supreme Court bench headed by Chief Justice of India SA Bobde had remarked that it was “inappropriate” for the court to act on the Centre’s plea seeking an injunction against the proposed tractor rally scheduled on January 26 (Republic Day).
The bench added that the court cannot decide on who should be allowed into Delhi to hold protests is a law and order issue that has to be handled by the police and not the court. Later, the Centre withdrew the petition, as per reports.
The top court also expressed displeasure over the aspersions cast by some farmers’ unions on opinions of some members of the panel appointed by the court to resolve the impasse over the farm laws.
Also read: No Breakthrough in 9th Round of Govt-Farmer Talks; Next on Jan 19