Negotiations Between Farmers, Indian Government End in Stalemate

Negotiations between protesting farmers and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government on Friday ended in an impasse as peasant leaders stuck to their demand for repealing new agricultural laws and rejected the administration’s offer to suspend them for 18 months.

The government told the farmer unions that it is ready to meet again once they agree to discuss the suspension proposal, Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar told reporters after the meeting. No date has been fixed for a subsequent meeting.

“Whatever best options are available, we have offered to farmer unions,” said Tomar. “I hope farmer unions will consider it in a positive way.”

Only a full repeal of the three farm acts and legislation for minimum support prices for crops will end the two months of protests, Samkyukt Kisan Morcha, an umbrella body representing protesting unions, said in a statement Thursday before the meeting.

“It’s an effort to quell the farmers’ protests and not a sincere move to resolve the issues,” said Avik Saha, organizing secretary of the All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee, before the talks. “Keeping the laws in abeyance doesn’t achieve the purpose for which farmers are agitating.”

Agriculture Minister Tomar has said a suspension would allow farm leaders and the government to begin discussions to find a lasting resolution to their differences. A spokesman for the Prime Minister’s Office wasn’t immediately available for comment.

The farmers have been camping out at several entry points to the capital New Delhi since late November in protest against the legislations that they say will hurt farm incomes and leave them vulnerable to big corporations. The Modi government has defended the laws, saying the reforms will make agriculture competitive and bring prosperity to farmers.

The protesters have also said they plan a rally in the Indian capital that would run at the same time as Republic Day celebrations on Jan. 26.

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