Farmers stand in front of barricades to protest against the central government's farm reform laws at the Delhi-Ghazipur border.(Raj K Raj/HT Photo)
Farmers stand in front of barricades to protest against the central government's farm reform laws at the Delhi-Ghazipur border.(Raj K Raj/HT Photo)

Meeting between farmers’ leaders, govt inconclusive; next round on Dec 3

Union agriculture minister Narendra Singh Tomar said that the meeting was good and that a decision has been taken to hold the talks on Thursday.
By hindustantimes.com | Edited by Meenakshi Ray | Hindustan Times, New Delhi
UPDATED ON DEC 01, 2020 07:57 PM IST

The meeting between leaders of farmers agitating against the farm laws and the government on Tuesday remained inconclusive and another round of talks is going to be held on Thursday. Union agriculture minister Narendra Singh Tomar said the meeting with representatives of protesting farmers was “good” and that the next round of talks has been scheduled for Thursday. The minister told the media after Tuesday’s talks that the government was keen on a group being formed but farmers’ leaders wanted that the talks should be held with everyone.

“The meeting was good and we have decided that the talks will be held on December 3. We wanted a small group to be constituted but farmers’ leaders wanted that the talks should be held with everyone, we do not have a problem with it,” the minister said. Tomar also appealed to farmers to suspend their protest. “We appeal to the farmers to suspend the protests and come for the talks. However, this decision (of suspending the agitation) depends on farmers’ unions and farmers,” he said.

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The government, during the course of the meeting at Vigyan Bhawan, suggested setting up a committee to look into issues raised by farmers protesting against new farm laws, but it was rejected by representatives of 35 agitating organisations during their marathon meeting with three Union ministers that ended without any resolution. The government also gave a detailed presentation to the farmers’ leaders on the Minimum Support Price (MSP) and the Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC) Act during the meeting.

The protesting farmers are apprehensive that the Centre’s farm laws would pave the way for the dismantling of the minimum support price (MSP) system, leaving them at the mercy of big corporates. The government has maintained that the new laws will bring farmers better opportunities and usher in new technologies in agriculture.

At the nearly three-hour-long meeting at Vigyan Bhawan, Tomar was accompanied by railways and commerce and industry Minister Piyush Goyal and minister of state for commerce Som Parkash, also an MP from Punjab.

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After the meeting, Bharat Kisan Union (Ekta Ugrahan) president Joginder Singh Ugrahan said it remained inconclusive and the government has called for another meeting on December 3. Ugrahan, the leader of one of the largest blocks of farmers who have been protesting against the new laws, said the government will arrive at a solution after hearing the representatives of the farmer organisations. “The farmer’s organisations rejected the government’s proposal to form a five-member committee to look into the issues related to the new farm laws,” Roopsingh Sanha, member of Bharatiya Kisan Union (Ekta Ugrahan), told PTI.

The government was, however, firm in its stand that a high-level committee must be formed to look into the issues and wanted the farmer representatives to further consider the proposal. PTI reported citing sources that the ministers were of the view that it was difficult to reach a decision while interacting with such large groups and therefore they suggested meeting with a smaller group, but the farmer leaders were firm that they would meet collectively only.

Union leaders said they feared the government might be trying to break their unity and the momentum of their protest. “The government asked us to give names of 5-7 members to form a small committee for better discussion, but we rejected it. We said we all will be present,” BKU (Dakaunda) Bathinda District President Baldev Singh said. “The government is insisting for a small group because they want to divide us. We are very well aware of the government’s tricks,” he alleged.

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After the meeting held at Delhi’s Vigyan Bhawan, a member of the farmers’ delegation said that their movement against the three farm laws will continue. “We will definitely take back something from the government, be it bullets or a peaceful solution. We will come back for more discussions with them,” Chanda Singh said according to ANI.

News agency PTI reported citing officials that another round of meeting was held later in the evening at the agriculture ministry with representatives of Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU). BKU leader Naresh Tikait also said another delegation of farmers’ leaders was meeting the government at 7pm. He said issues other than the recently enacted farm laws are also likely to be discussed, and mentioned power tariffs for farmers among the probable talking points.

The meeting was expected to be attended by representatives from Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi and Uttarakhand, Tikait told reporters at the Delhi-Ghaziabad border while on his way for the meeting. This meeting began soon after the end of the first one with a much larger group at Vigyan Bhawan, where the farmer representatives were unanimous in seeking repeal of the three laws that they have been terming as being against the interest of the farm community.

The opposition parties too have stepped up the pressure, asking the Centre to “respect the democratic struggle” of the farmers and repeal the laws.

An earlier meeting on November 13 had failed to reach a breakthrough and the next one was originally scheduled for December 3, but it got advanced due to the ongoing protests on Delhi borders. Peaceful sit-ins by farmers, mostly from Punjab and Haryana, continued at the Singhu and Tikri borders with no untoward incident reported after Friday’s violence, while the numbers of protestors swelled at the Ghazipur border on Monday.

(With agency inputs)

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