The eighth round of negotiations between the protesting farmer unions and the Centre over the recently-enacted agriculture laws ended on an inconclusive note Friday, with farmers sticking to their key demand of repeal of the farm laws and the Centre insisting to limit the talks to contentious clauses. The next round of talks is likely to be held on January 15.
Holding their ground during meeting, the 41-member representative group of the agitating farmers told the government their “ghar wapsi” (return to home) can take place only after “law wapsi“ (repeal of laws) whereas the Centre ruled out a complete withdrawal of Acts. It asserted that a large section of farmers in other states across the country have welcomed the laws and asked the unions to think about the interests of the entire country.
“Our ‘ghar wapsi’ can happen only if you do ‘law wapsi’,” a farmer leader said at the meeting, news agency PTI reported. “Ideally, the Centre should not interfere in agriculture matters as various Supreme Court orders have declared farming as a state subject. It seems you (the government) do not want to resolve the issue as talks have been happening for so many days. In that case, please give us a clear answer and we will go. Why to waste everyone’s time,” said another union leader at the meeting.
Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar, while speaking to reporters after the meeting, said no decision could be reached as unions did not give alternatives to their demand for the repeal of laws. However, the government is still hopeful that union leaders will come up with alternatives to discuss in the next round of talks on January 15, Tomar said, while virtually ruling out the repeal of the laws.
On whether the government proposed to farmers to join a pending case in Supreme Court on issues related to farmers’ protest, Tomar said the government did not make any such suggestion but it is always committed to follow whatever is decided by the Supreme Court.
Just before the commencement of the farmers-Centre meet, Tomar met senior BJP leader and Union Home Minister Amit Shah, PTI reported quoting its sources.
Farmers to meet on Jan 11 to decide next course of action
After the meeting, union leader Joginder Singh Ugrahan said the meeting was inconclusive and it was unlikely that any solution could be found through the next round of talks as well. “We do not want anything less than the repeal of laws,” he said, adding that the government is testing their strength, “but we will not bow down”. “It seems we will have to spend Lohri and Baisakhi festivals here at protest sides,” he said. General Secretary, All India Kisan Sabha Hannan Mollah said farmers are ready to fight till death and going to court over this was not an option. He said the farmer unions will meet on January 11 to decide their next course of action. Mollah also said tractor parade will go on as planned on January 26.
Jai Kisan Andolan union leader Ravinder Kaur broke down after the meeting with the Centre and said many mothers have lost their sons and many daughters have lost their fathers during the protest.
Lakha Singh spoke to us out of his pain for farmers: Tomar
On Thursday’s meeting with Baba Lakha Singh, one of the heads of the Nanaksar Sikh sect based in Punjab, Tomar said the government did not approach him but the religious leader spoke to him “out of his pain for farmers”. “Lakha Singh was distressed that farmers are agitating in winter. He conveyed to us farmers’ view, I presented the government’s. I urged him to talk to Unions’ leaders. We didn’t approach him, he spoke to us out of his pain for farmers,” Tomar said.
Tomar on Thursday had met Lakha Singh, who has been organising langar at the protest sites, said he wished to mediate between the government and protesting farmers. While Tomar had played down the meeting, farmer unions said the religious leader wasn’t speaking for them.
(With inputs from PTI, ANI)