The fourth round of talks between the Centre and farmer leaders over the new farm laws concluded on Thursday without any breakthrough. The meeting that lasted for over 7 hours, saw discussions over various concerns raised by the farmers concerning the three agriculture laws. Though the meeting remained inconclusive, Union Agriculture Narendra Singh Tomar once again assured farmers that Minimum Support Price (MSP) will not be ended. The next meeting will be held on December 5 (Saturday) at 2 pm.
Addressing the media after the meeting, Tomar said that the government is listening to the concerns of the farmers, and he would like to advise and appeal to them to end their protest. The minister cited the cold weather and inconvenience being caused to the people of the national capital to appeal the farmers to end their agitaiton.
"Some points have been raised in previous meetings and today's meet. Farmer unions are mainly concerned about these. Government has no ego, it was discussing with farmers with an open mind. Farmers are concerned that the new laws will end APMCs. The government will contemplate about seeing that APMC is further strengthened and its usage increases. New laws lay down provision for private mandis outside purview of APMC. So, we'll also contemplate about having an equal tax for private as well as mandis under AMPC Act," the agriculture minister said.
"In the new Act, it has been provided that farmers can take their grievances to SDM court. Farmers' Unions feel that SDM court is a lower court and they should be allowed to go the court. Government will consider this demand," he added.
Tomar further said, "the government is holding talks and the issue that will come up during discussion will definitely reach to a solution. That is why I appeal to farmers to end their agitation so that people of Delhi don't face problems that they are facing due to protests."
However, farmer leaders appeared firm on their stand of roll back of the three laws. "Government has given indications over MSP. It seems that their stand over MSP will be fine. The talks have made a little progress," Rakesh Tikait, spokesperson, Bharatiya Kisan Union, told reporters.
"The issue is about the complete roll back of laws. Not only one but discussions will also be held on several issues. Farmers want that the laws be taken back. Government wants to talk about MSP and amendment to the Acts," Tikait added.
Enacted in September, the laws have been presented by the government as major reforms in the agriculture sector by removing middlemen and allowing farmers to sell anywhere in the country.
However, the protesting farmers have been worried that the new laws will eliminate the safety cushion of a Minimum Support Price (MSP) and procurement system, while rendering ineffective the mandi system that ensures earnings for various stakeholders in the farm sector.
Thousands of farmers have been camping at the Singhu and Tikri borders of the national capital for eight days as part of their protest against the laws.
But protests have been continuing for much longer in other parts, especially in Punjab.
(With inputs from agencies)