The ninth round of negotiations between the government and protesting farmers will take place on Friday. Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar expressed hope that the discussions would be positive. "The government is ready to hold talks with farmers' leaders with an open mind," Tomar said amid confusion over the fate of the next round of talks, in the wake of the Supreme Court appointing a four-member panel to resolve the impasse.
Tomar said the talks between the government and the union representatives will take place as scheduled for 12 pm on January 15. Even as the farmers refused to appear before the court-appointed panel citing its composition, the unions have expressed willingness to attend the scheduled talks with the government.
Bhartiya Kisan Union president recuses himself from committee
Earlier on Thursday, Bhartiya Kisan Union president Bhupinder Singh Mann recused himself from the four-member committee, which has been accused by farmer unions and opposition parties as a "pro-government" panel. Mann said he is thankful to the apex court for nominating him on the panel but would give up any position to prevent farmers' interests from being compromised.
“As a farmer myself and a union leader, in view of the prevailing sentiments and apprehensions amongst the farm unions and the public in general, I am ready to sacrifice any position offered or given to me so as to not compromise the interests of Punjab and farmers of the country. I am recusing myself from the committee and I will always stand with my farmers and Punjab,” Mann said in a statement.
Supreme Court's stay on implementation of farm laws
On Tuesday, the top court had stayed the implementation of the three farm laws till further orders and announced the formation of a committee to hear the grievances of the farmers and the opinion of the government.
Apart from 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.
The point of contention
Thousands of farmers, mainly from Punjab, Haryana and Western Uttar Pradesh, have been camping at the border of Delhi for several weeks, demanding the repeal of the laws they say will lead to the weakening of the minimum support price (MSP) system.
The three contentious laws are the Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020, the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020 and the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020.