New Delhi: Two days after the Modi government’s climbdown, the eleventh round of talks with the farmer unions Friday over the three farm laws again failed to resolve the stalemate.
While the government interlocutors led by Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar said the administration has nothing more to offer apart from suspending the laws for 12-18 months, the farmers refused to budge from their demand for a total repeal of the legislations.
In a first, no date has been fixed for the next round of talks.
Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Tomar said the talks hit a roadblock because of the unions’ insistence on a total repeal of the laws.
“Talks remained inconclusive as farmers’ welfare was not at the heart of talks from the unions’ side. I am sad about it. Farmer unions said that they only want the repeal of the laws despite the government asking for alternatives,” he said.
The government now expects a decision from the farmers by Saturday.
“We told unions to get back to us by Saturday with their decision on our proposal. If they agree, we’ll meet again,” added Tomar.
A government functionary, who attended the meeting, told ThePrint, “We have given our proposal to the farmer leaders and told them to deliberate on it and get back to us tomorrow (Saturday) with their views and suggestions.”
“But we have made it very clear that the laws have been put on hold temporarily till there is a resolution. We are not going to repeal the three farm laws.”
The farmers said the meeting ended inconclusively due to the refusal on the part of the government to repeal the laws.
“The government gave the same proposal as they had in the previous meeting. They said apart from staying the laws, we cannot offer anything more. However, our demand remains total repeal of the laws and that’s why the meeting saw no outcome,” Jagjit Singh Dalewal, president, Bharatiya Kisan Union (Sidhupur) told ThePrint.
While the meeting started at around noon and ended at 5 pm, farmer unions claimed the two sides sat face-to-face only for 20-30 minutes.
“Soon after the meeting started at noon, the government said they needed to discuss among themselves and asked us to do the same. When the meeting resumed, it barely lasted 15 minutes and the entire duration of the two sides sitting face-to-face did not exceed 30 minutes,” Satyavan, working group member, All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee, told ThePrint.
‘Government is clearly running out of options’
While the previous rounds of negotiations had always ended with a date being fixed for the next round of talks, this meeting saw no such promise.
“The government said that the next round of meeting can only take place if the farmers accept the government’s proposal,” Rakesh Tikait, national spokesperson, Bharatiya Kisan Union, told reporters after the meeting.
“The government is clearly running out of options and needs time to think,” said Satyavan.
Asked if the farmers will attend the next round of talks if the government proposes a date, farmers said it will depend on the agenda of the talks.
“We have always been willing to engage in dialogue. However, our participation in the next round will depend on the agenda of the talks,” added Satyavan.
How deadlock has continued
Friday’s meeting comes just two days after the government offered a proposal to suspend the farm laws for 12-18 months until the standoff is resolved.
The government also offered to file an affidavit before the Supreme Court, stating that it will put the laws on hold and set up a committee to look threadbare into the various issues, including the provisions that the farmers are opposing and a legal guarantee for minimum support price (MSP).
In a statement Thursday, farmer unions, however, rejected the government’s proposal and reiterated their demand for a full repeal.
On 8 January, the Centre had hardened its stance and told the protesting farmers that the laws will not be repealed and the latter can go to the Supreme Court to get the matter settled. The farmer unions, however, didn’t approach the top court.
Thousands of farmers, meanwhile, have been protesting against the laws at Delhi borders for almost two months now. With no resolution to the standoff, farmers have now vowed to continue with their proposed tractor rally on Republic Day.
“We will continue our agitation and will proceed with the tractor rally as planned,” said Dalewal.