The eleventh round of talks between protesting farmer unions and three central ministers in Delhi ended on Friday, once again with no solution on the deadlock. The Centre conveyed it to the farmers that the government has placed its best proposal forward and now the onus lies with them.
Speaking to media after talks with farmer unions leader, Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar said, "talks remained inconclusive as farmers' welfare was not at the heart of talks from the unions' side. I am sad about it. Farmers unions said that they only want the repeal of the laws despite the govt asking for alternatives."
"We asked them to reconsider our proposal as it is in the interest of farmers and the country. We asked them to convey their decision tomorrow."
The Union Minister said that the government has given many proposals to end their protest, but no resolution possible when the sanctity of agitation is lost. "Farm reform bills got passed in Parliament for farmers' benefit; agitation mainly by those from Punjab and some from few other states," he added.
One of the farmer leaders, Shiv Kumar Kakka while speaking to media after talks ended, said, "before the lunch break, farmer leaders reiterated their demand for the repeal of the farm laws and govt said they are ready for amendments. The minister asked us to consider govt's proposal & we asked him to consider ours. After that, the minister left the meeting." The 11th round of talks were held to break the nearly two-month-long deadlock on the three new agri laws, but it ended without any conclusion.
"No date for the next meeting has been fixed by the government," said Surjeet Singh Phul, State President of BKU Krantikari (Punjab).
"The minister made us wait for three and a half hours. This is an insult to farmers. When he came, he asked us to consider the government's proposal and said that he is ending the process of meetings... The agitation will continue peacefully," said SS Pandher, Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Committee.
Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar, Railways, Commerce and Food Minister Piyush Goyal and Minister of State for Commerce Som Parkash held talks with the representatives of 41 farmer unions at the Vigyan Bhawan.
In the last round of meeting held on Wednesday, the government yielded some ground in its bid to end the farmers' protest on various border points of the national capital. The Centre had offered to put on hold the three laws for 12-18 months and also set up a joint committee to find solutions.
However, the farmer unions on Thursday rejected the government's offer and remained stuck to their two major demand -- repeal of three farm laws and legal guarantee of the minimum support price (MSP). Farmers group said they will continue protest and also hold tractor rally on January 26, the Republic Day.
"In a full general body meeting of the Samyukt Kisan Morcha today, the proposal put forth by the government yesterday, was rejected. A full repeal of three central farm acts and enacting a legislation for remunerative MSP for all farmers were reiterated as the pending demands of the movement," Samkyukt Kisan Morcha, an umbrella body of protesting unions, said in a statement on Thursday.
During the internal meeting, which lasted for over four hours, the farmers also asserted that they "will not go back to their homes until their demand to repeal the three contentious farm laws is accepted by the government".
However, Jagjit Singh Dalewal of Bharatiya Kisan Union (Sindhupur), one of the 41 union leaders participating in the negotiations with the government, said a final decision is yet to be taken on the government's proposal and various union leaders were still discussing the matter.
Meanwhile, the meeting between the protesting unions and police over the January 26 tractor rally remained inconclusive on Thursday as the farmers stuck to their demand to take it out on Delhi's busy Outer Ring Road.
"In the meeting held with the police officials, police requested farmers to not conduct the parade in Delhi while the farmers restated their plan about doing the parade on the Outer Ring Road of Delhi," Morcha said in statement. It stated that this peaceful movement is becoming people's movement and getting nationwide.
The three laws have already been stayed by the Supreme Court on January 11 till further orders, and the apex court also formed a committee of experts to resolve the deadlock. The panel has been asked by the apex court to submit its report within two months after consulting all stakeholders. The court-appointed panel on Thursday started its consultation process and interacted with 10 farmer organisations from eight states, including Uttar Pradesh.
Enacted in September last year, the three laws have been projected by the Central government as major reforms in the agriculture sector that will remove middlemen and allow farmers to sell their produce anywhere in the country. However, the protesting farmers have expressed their apprehension that the new laws would pave the way for eliminating the safety cushion of MSP (minimum support price) and do away with the "mandi" (wholesale market) system, leaving them at the mercy of big corporates.
In another related development, Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar on Thursday night met senior BJP leader and Home Minister Amit Shah. The meeting took place after Sanyukt Kisan Morcha in a statement rejected the government's offer to put on hold the three farm laws.
Tomar has been leading the government side in the negotiations along with Railways, Commerce and Food Minister Piyush Goyal and Minister of State for Commerce Som Parkash, who is an MP from Punjab.
Meanwhile, the Congress party has welcomed the farmer unions decision and dubbed the government's offer as a 'lollipop'. "Stop the daily 'jumlas' and atrocities, just simply repeal the anti-agriculture laws," Rahul Gandhi said in a tweet in Hindi.