Farmer Unions’ Meet To Reconsider Offer To Suspend Farm Laws
A meeting of 32 Punjab farmer unions opposed to the Centre's farm laws is underway at the Singhu border, a major protest site, to reconsider the government's proposal to put the contentious legislations on hold.
Later in the day, a crucial meeting of the Samkyukt Kisan Morcha, an umbrella body of around 40 farmer organisations leading the protests at several Delhi border points, will be held.
"The meeting of Punjab farmer unions is going on. A meeting of Samyukta Kisan Morcha will be held later in the day," said Lakhbir Singh, vice president (Punjab) of All India Kisan Sabha.
On Jan. 21, the farmers’ unions had rejected a government offer to defer implementation of the three farm laws by up to 18 months and set up a joint committee to facilitate dialogue. The rejection came within 24 hours of the proposal and cast a shadow on the meeting between farmers and central government minister the next day. Unlike the last 10 rounds of talks between the government and farmer leaders, that eleventh round on Friday, Jan. 22, saw both sides hardening their positions. They could not even reach a decision on the next date for the meeting.
The government then asked farmer unions to revert by Jan. 23 in case they agree to the suspension proposal. It said the talks can continue only thereafter.
Many have viewed the central government’s offer to defer implementation of the three farm laws as a conciliatory gesture. Yet, experts told BloombergQuint that laws already in effect cannot be suspended or deferred without a legislative amendment.
Farmer leaders have so far insisted that they would settle for nothing less than a complete repeal of the laws enacted last year, which they find pro-corporate. They have also insisted on a legal guarantee for the procurement of crops at government-fixed minimum support price.
The unions are planning a tractor rally on Delhi's busy Outer Ring Road on Jan. 26, to rival the Republic Day Parade. The Supreme Court refused a central government plea to block the rally, saying it is a law and order matter. The apex court has suspended the three laws indefinitely and constituted a committee to resolve the matter, though that too has faced opposition from farmers on grounds that committee members have already expressed their support for the laws.
A meeting between a group of farmer leaders and police officers from Delhi, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh is scheduled later on Saturday to discuss alternative routes for the tractor parade.