The ninth round of talks between Central government and farmer unions will be held in New Delhi today. Ahead of the talks, Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar said that the government is ready to hold talks with farmers' leaders with an open mind and expressed hope for positive discussions.
Earlier on Tuesday, the Supreme Court had stayed the implementation of three farm laws till further orders. It had also announced the formation of a committee to hear the grievances of the farmers and the opinion of the government. Bhartiya Kisan Union president Bhupinder Singh Mann, Shetkari Sanghatana Maharashtra president Anil Ghanwat, International Food Policy Research Institute's Pramod Kumar Joshi and agriculture economist Ashok Gulati were appointed on the panel. Mann, however, on Thursday recused himself from the four-member committee.
The Supreme Court-appointed panel on farm laws is likely to hold its first meeting on January 19.
Meanwhile, protesting farmer leaders said they will attend the ninth round of talks with the government amid indication that it may be last such meeting with the Centre, but added that they don't have much hope as they will not settle for anything less than the repeal of the contentious farm laws.
Bhartiya Kisan Union (Ekta Ugrahan) Joginder Singh Ugrahan said, "We are going to hold talks with the government on Friday. We don't have much hope from the Friday meeting as the government will cite the SC-appointed panel. The government doesn't have good intention to resolve our issues."
Singh said that the unions do not want any committee, adding "we just want a complete repeal of three farm laws and legal guarantee on minimum support price for our crops." He said that farmers will not call off their protest until their demands are met.
On the government holding parallel talks with protesting farmers, scheduled for January 15, after the SC appointed the panel, Ghanwat said, "I think this will be their last meeting with the government. They will say henceforth you (farmers) have to sit with the committee, which will give a report to the Supreme Court."
The farmer unions have been maintaining that they were ready to attend the scheduled talks with the government, even as they have said they do not want to appear before the court-appointed panel and have also questioned its composition.
Farmer unions and opposition parties had called it a "pro-government" panel, insisting that its members have been in favour of the three laws in the past.
Thousands of farmers, mostly from Punjab and Haryana, have been camping at several Delhi border points, demanding a complete repeal of the three farm laws and legal guarantee of minimum support price for their crops. They have expressed their apprehension that the new laws would pave the way for eliminating the safety cushion of the MSP and do away with the "mandi" (wholesale market) system, leaving them at the mercy of big corporates. Enacted in September last year, the three laws have been projected by the Centre as major reforms in the agriculture sector that will remove middlemen and allow farmers to sell their produce anywhere in the country.