New Delhi: The government is ready to resume talks with protesting farmers if they respond to its offer to put the three contentious farm laws on hold for one-and-a-half year and work out the difference during that time through a joint committee, Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar said Wednesday.
The government and unions representing farmers, who have been camping at Delhi’s border for about three months in protest against the three laws that they see will end state procurement of crops at MSP, have held 11 rounds of talks, the last being on January 22. Talks broke after widespread violence during a tractor rally by protesting farmers on January 26.
Speaking on the sidelines of an event here, Tomar said the government is committed towards the interest of farmers and agriculture, and under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, it is making efforts to double farmers’ income and strengthen the Indian agriculture sector.
The minister was replying to a query on Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) leader Rakesh Tikait threatening to march to the Parliament on 40 lakh tractors if laws are not repealed.
Whether the government is making any effort to resume talks with unions, Tomar said, “Bharat sarkar kisano se puri samvedana ke saath charcha karti rahi hai. Aaj bhi jab unka koi mat aayega, toh Bharat sarkar hamesha kisano ke saath charcha karne ko taiyaar hai (The government has been holding discussions with farmers sympathetically. Even today, whenever their response comes, the government is always ready to hold talks).”
Thousands of farmers, mainly from Punjab, Haryana and Western Uttar Pradesh, is protesting at Delhi borders for around three months, seeking repeal of three new laws and a legal guarantee of the MSP.
In the 11th round of talks held on January 22, the government’s negotiations with 41 farmer groups hit a roadblock as the unions squarely rejected the Centre’s proposal to put three contentious laws on hold and form joint committee to find solutions.
During the 10th round of talks held on January 20, the Centre had offered to suspend the laws for 1-1.5 years and form a joint committee to find solutions, in return for protesting farmers going back to their respective homes from Delhi borders.
Farmer groups have alleged that these laws will end the mandi and MSP procurement systems and leave the farmers at the mercy of big corporates, even as the government has rejected these apprehensions as misplaced.
On January 11, the Supreme Court stayed the implementation of the three laws till further orders and appointed a four-member panel to resolve the impasse. Bhartiya Kisan Union President Bhupinder Singh Mann had 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, the other three members on the panel, have started the consultation process with stakeholders.