Government Offers To Suspend Farm Laws For Over A Year
The central government on Wednesday proposed to suspend the three contentious farm laws for up to one and half years and set up a joint committee to discuss the Acts to end the stalemate with protesting farmers. However, farmer leaders did not immediately accept the proposal and said they will revert after internal consultations.
The next meeting has been scheduled for Jan. 22, a day after the farmer unions hold their internal discussions, farmer leaders said after the tenth round of talks ended at Delhi’s Vigyan Bhawan.
"The government proposed to suspend the farm laws for one and a half years. We rejected the proposal but since it has come from the government we will meet tomorrow and deliberate over it," Bharatiya Kisan Union (Ugrahan) president Joginder Singh Ugrahan said.
Another farmer leader Kavitha Kuruganti said the government also proposed to submit an affidavit in the Supreme Court for suspending the three farm laws for a mutually-agreed period and set up a committee.
The leaders said unions are firm on their demand for a complete repeal of the laws, but they will still discuss the government's proposal and share their final decision in the next meeting.
Thousands of farmers, mainly from Punjab, Haryana and western Uttar Pradesh, are protesting at various border points of Delhi for over a month now against the three laws.
Farmer groups believe these laws will end the mandi and MSP procurement systems and leave them at the mercy of big corporate buyers, even as the government has rejected these apprehensions as misplaced.
The tenth round of talks was initially scheduled on Jan. 19, but later got postponed to Wednesday.
Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar, Railways, Commerce and Food Minister Piyush Goyal and Minister of State for Commerce Som Parkash, who is an MP from Punjab, are holding talks with the representatives of around 40 farmer unions at the Vigyan Bhawan here.
Before the meeting, the three ministers also met senior Bharatiya Janata Party leader and Union Home Minister Amit Shah.
The meeting began at around 2:45 p.m. with the three ministers greeting farmer leaders on the occasion of Gurupurab. The meeting resumed at around 5:15 p.m. after a lunch break, but the two sides took another break at around 6 p.m. during which the farmer leaders discussed the government proposal for suspending the laws for a fixed period of time.
During the meeting, the government also offered to amend the three laws but farmer leaders stuck to their demand and alleged that the central government was avoiding discussion on a legal guarantee for minimum support price.
Farmer leaders also raised the issue of National Investigation Agency notices being served on some farmers, alleging it was being done just to harass those supporting the agitation, to which the government representatives said they will look into the matter.
The farmer leaders presented multiple Parliament replies given by the agriculture minister where he had stated that agriculture is a state subject, while one reply mentioned even agri-marketing as a state subject.
"The government offered to carry out some amendments, but farmer leaders maintained they do not want anything less than a complete repeal of the laws," Tikait said.
Laws Already Stayed By Supreme Court
The laws have already been stayed till further orders by the Supreme Court, which has appointed a committee to resolve the deadlock. The committee, which had its first meeting on Tuesday and will begin its consultations with various stakeholders on Thursday, has been asked by the court to submit its report in two months.
Bhartiya Kisan Union president Bhupinder Singh Mann had since recused himself from the committee appointed by the apex court. Shetkari Sanghatana (Maharashtra) president Anil Ghanwat and agriculture economists Pramod Kumar Joshi and Ashok Gulati are the other three members on the panel. Under attack from protesting unions for their "pro-government" public stand on three contentious farm laws, the members of the committee said that they would keep aside their own ideologies and views while consulting various stakeholders, even as they indicated a complete repeal won't augur well for much-needed agriculture reforms.
Earlier in the day, a group of farm union leaders met top officials of Delhi, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh police to discuss the route and arrangements for their tractor rally on Jan. 26 to protest against the three farm laws.
But the unions rejected a suggestion by police officers to hold their rally on the Kundli-Manesar-Palwal Expressway instead of Delhi's Outer Ring Road, sources said.
The Supreme Court has so far refused to intervene in the holding of the rally, saying it’s the job of the police to maintain law and order. The central government had sought an injunction against the rally on grounds that it could disrupt Republic Day celebrations.