Government, farmers have reached consensus on 2 out of 4 issues, says Tomar

Malini T
·10-min read
Leaders of protesting farmers pose for media prior to their meeting with India's Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar in New Delhi on December 30, 2020. (Photo by PRAKASH SINGH/AFP via Getty Images)
Leaders of protesting farmers pose for media prior to their meeting with India's Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar in New Delhi on December 30, 2020. (Photo by PRAKASH SINGH/AFP via Getty Images)

The sixth round of talks between the protesting farmer unions and three Central ministers has concluded. The next meeting will take place on January 4.

While the deadlock over farm laws and the Minimum Support price (MSP) continues, the Centre has agreed to keep farmers out of purview of fines for stubble burning, and has reached consensus on Electricity Bill.

Earlier, Bharatiya Kisan Union leader Rakesh Tikait had tweeted claiming that the government is ready to take back the laws related to punishment for burning of farm stubble and the law related to not allowing free or subsidised electricity to farmers.

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, held talks with the representatives of 41 farmer unions at the Vigyan Bhawan.

After around two hours of discussions, the union ministers joined farm leaders to share 'langar' food arranged by protesting farmers.

The 'langar' (community kitchen) food arrived in a van at the meeting venue, Vigyan Bhawan just before the two sides took a break for tea and snacks.

Sources present at the venue said that Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar, Food and Railway Minister Piyush Goyal and Minister of State for Commerce Som Parkash joined the farmer leaders to share their langar food during the break.

Farmer leaders said that the talks were continuing and they were going 'agenda wise'.

While talks resumed after the break, some leaders said not much headway was made in the first session, sources said.

The sixth round of talks between the two sides is being held after a considerable gap. The fifth round of talks was held on December 5.

The protesting farmer unions are sticking to their hardline position that the discussions will only be on the modalities of repealing the three new agri laws and giving a legal guarantee on the MSP among other issues.

On Monday, the Centre invited the unions for this round of talks on December 30 on all relevant issues to find a 'logical solution' with an 'open mind' to the prolonged impasse over the three new agri laws that were enacted in September.

But in its letter on Tuesday, the Samyukt Kisan Morcha, the umbrella organisation which represents the farmer unions, said the modalities for repealing the three contentious laws and a legal guarantee on minimum support price (MSP) must be part of the agenda.

Farmer leader Rakesh Tikait, center, greets the crowd before going in for a meeting with government representatives in New Delhi. (AP Photo/Manish Swarup)
Farmer leader Rakesh Tikait, center, greets the crowd before going in for a meeting with government representatives in New Delhi. (AP Photo/Manish Swarup)
Protesting farmers listen to their leaders as they continue to demonstrate against the central government's recent agricultural reforms while blocking a highway at the Delhi-Haryana state border in Singhu on December 30, 2020. (Photo by PRAKASH SINGH/AFP via Getty Images)
Protesting farmers listen to their leaders as they continue to demonstrate against the central government's recent agricultural reforms while blocking a highway at the Delhi-Haryana state border in Singhu on December 30, 2020. (Photo by PRAKASH SINGH/AFP via Getty Images)
Leaders of protesting farmers pose for media prior to their meeting with India's Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar in New Delhi. (Photo by PRAKASH SINGH/AFP via Getty Images)
Leaders of protesting farmers pose for media prior to their meeting with India's Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar in New Delhi. (Photo by PRAKASH SINGH/AFP via Getty Images)
Indian farmers walk outside their tents on a blocked highway during a protest against the central government's recent agricultural reforms in Delhi, along the Delhi-Uttar Pradesh state border, on December 30, 2020. (Photo by Pankaj Nangia/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
Indian farmers walk outside their tents on a blocked highway during a protest against the central government's recent agricultural reforms in Delhi, along the Delhi-Uttar Pradesh state border, on December 30, 2020. (Photo by Pankaj Nangia/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
Volunteers prepare 'Jalebi', a sweet dish for breakfast as farmers continue to demonstrate against the central government's recent agricultural reforms while blocking a highway at the Delhi-Haryana state border in Singhu on December 30, 2020. (Photo by Prakash SINGH / AFP) (Photo by PRAKASH SINGH/AFP via Getty Images)
Volunteers prepare 'Jalebi', a sweet dish for breakfast as farmers continue to demonstrate against the central government's recent agricultural reforms while blocking a highway at the Delhi-Haryana state border in Singhu on December 30, 2020. (Photo by PRAKASH SINGH/AFP via Getty Images)
Volunteers cook breakfast as farmers continue to demonstrate against the central government's recent agricultural reforms while blocking a highway at the Delhi-Haryana state border in Singhu on December 30, 2020. (Photo by PRAKASH SINGH/AFP via Getty Images)
Volunteers cook breakfast as farmers continue to demonstrate against the central government's recent agricultural reforms while blocking a highway at the Delhi-Haryana state border in Singhu on December 30, 2020. (Photo by PRAKASH SINGH/AFP via Getty Images)
Indian farmers walk in front of their tents on a blocked highway during a protest against the central government's recent agricultural reforms in Delhi, along the Delhi-Uttar Pradesh state border, on December 30, 2020. (Photo by Pankaj Nangia/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
Indian farmers walk in front of their tents on a blocked highway during a protest against the central government's recent agricultural reforms in Delhi, along the Delhi-Uttar Pradesh state border, on December 30, 2020. (Photo by Pankaj Nangia/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
Indian farmers walk outside their tents on a blocked highway during a protest against the central government's recent agricultural reforms in Delhi, along the Delhi-Uttar Pradesh state border, on December 30, 2020. (Photo by Pankaj Nangia/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
Indian farmers walk outside their tents on a blocked highway during a protest against the central government's recent agricultural reforms in Delhi, along the Delhi-Uttar Pradesh state border, on December 30, 2020. (Photo by Pankaj Nangia/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
Indian farmers take bath during their ongoing sit-in farmers protest at the Delhi-Uttar Pradesh border, India, on December 30, 2020. (Photo by Pankaj Nangia/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
Indian farmers take bath during their ongoing sit-in farmers protest at the Delhi-Uttar Pradesh border, India, on December 30, 2020. (Photo by Pankaj Nangia/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Enacted in September, the three farm laws have been projected by the central government as major reforms in the agriculture sector that will remove the middleman and allow farmers to sell their produce anywhere in the country.

However, the protesting farmers have expressed apprehension that the new laws would pave the way for eliminating the safety cushion of MSP and do away with the mandi system, leaving them at the mercy of big corporates.

The government has repeatedly asserted that the MSP and mandi systems will stay and has accused the Opposition of misleading the farmers.

The sixth round of talks was originally scheduled for December 9 but it was called off after an informal meeting of Home Minister Amit Shah with some union leaders failed to reach any breakthrough.

The government had, however, followed up Shah's meeting with a draft proposal sent to these farmer unions in which it had suggested 7-8 amendments to the new laws and written assurance on the MSP procurement system. The government has ruled out a repeal of the three agri laws.

Thousands of farmers, mainly from Punjab and Haryana, are protesting at various borders of the national capital for more than a month against these three new laws.

The government has presented these laws as major agriculture reforms aimed at helping farmers and increasing their income, but the protesting unions fear that the new legislations have left them at the mercy of big corporates by 'weakening' the MSP and mandi systems.

‘Hold direct talks with PM for successful outcome’

The Shiromani Akali Dal and the Congress appealed to farmers protesting against the Centre’s farm laws to hold direct talks with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, otherwise the dialogue will not yield any results.

Commenting on farmer leaders' meeting with the Centre over the laws, former Union minister and Akali Dal’s Bathinda MP Harsimrat Kaur Badal said they shouldn't fall into “trap” of extended meetings, “which yield nothing”.

Punjab Congress president Sunil Jakhar too favoured direct talks with the PM, saying the involvement of the prime minister or Union home minister is a must for a successful dialogue.

Rahul slams Centre for rising unemployment

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi slammed Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led Central government for rising unemployment in the country.

Citing a media report about the job losses during the month of November in the country, the Congress leader tweeted, "Youth is hit by unemployment, the public is being tortured by inflation, attack on farmers by "friends'" (Mitro) law, this is Modi government (Yuva par berozagaaree kee maar, Janata par mahangaee ka atyaachaar, Kisaan par 'mitron' vaale qaanoonon ka vaar, Yahee hai modee sarakaar)."

Ahead of crucial talks between the Centre and agitating farmers, the Congress demanded legal sanctity to the demands of farmers, including that on ensuring minimum support price.

Addressing a joint press conference, Congress leaders Rajeev Shukla and Govind Dotasra said the government must immediately repeal the three new farm laws and bring fresh ones after incorporating the demands of farmers.