New Delhi: The seventh round of meetings between the Narendra Modi government and farmer leaders, held in the national capital Monday, has also failed to reach any breakthrough. So, now, the government will go into a huddle again to brainstorm and come up with a “middle path” that is acceptable to farmers, ThePrint has learnt.
“We will have our internal meeting in a day or two to discuss our future course of action ahead of (the next round of talks on) 8 January. As of now, it’s very difficult to say what decision we will take,” a Union minister, who is part of the talks with farmers, told ThePrint on the condition of anonymity.
However, sources in the government as well as the ruling BJP said the government is clear about one thing — it is not going to repeal the three farm laws as the farmers have been demanding.
“Talks will continue. We will try to impress upon the farm leaders to discuss and agree to the amendments to the farm laws that we have proposed. But there will be no repeal of the laws that the unions are demanding,” said an official in Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar’s office. “The law has been made keeping the interests of the farmers in mind.”
The government has given a written guarantee that the minimum support price (MSP) regime will continue, and last month, had also proposed certain amendments to the three farm laws that would allow states to register private mandis and levy cess, and allow farmers to annul contracts without facing penal action, among other things.
However, the farmer unions remain adamant that the laws have to be repealed.
Also read: Why the farmers’ movement is no longer what the Modi govt thinks it is
Pressure building up
A senior BJP leader said the government is aware that the opposition has been politicising the issue, and may even raise it during the upcoming budget session of Parliament.
“The government is also walking a tightrope as it is not an easy matter that can be resolved without taking the unions into confidence,” said the leader, who also did not want to be named.
Given the government’s stance that the new laws won’t be repealed and the farmers’ insistence on it, sources said the pressure is building up.
Minister Tomar indicated as much when he spoke to reporters after Monday’s meeting. “The government wants farmer unions to discuss specific issues in the three farm laws on which they have problems. We could not reach any solution as farmer unions remained adamant on the repeal of the laws,” he said.
The BJP has brought in senior leaders to reach out to the various protesting farmer unions. Apart from Tomar, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, Railways Minister Piyush Goyal, and MoS Agriculture Som Parkash, who are at the forefront of the talks, other Union ministers and BJP leaders are engaging with different farmers’ unions.
“Attempts have also been made to talk to different unions and gain their support individually to reach a consensus on the matter. Many ministers are looking into it and we are hoping to resolve it,” the BJP leader quoted above said.
“We have been engaging with the farmers unions’ for quite some time now. This shows the intent of the government. While the government has shown that it is willing to go the extra mile and make changes, no such thing has happened from their side,” the leader added.
Repeal is the only way, say farmer leaders
While the government tries to find middle ground to end the farmers’ stir, the unions have hardened their stand after the seventh round of talks Monday.
Hannan Mollah, general secretary of the All India Kisan Sabha, an umbrella body of over 400 farm organisations, told ThePrint: “The government delegation did not come across as very confident today. They seem to be under tremendous pressure after we told them in no uncertain terms that for us the one and only alternative is repeal. We are not going to settle for anything else.”
Mollah said the farmers’ unions will meet Tuesday to chalk out their strategy for the eight round of talks on 8 January.
Also read: Why Indian agriculture needs reforms but cannot be forced upon farmers
In a functioning democracy the laws are made in parliament with the majority agreeing to it. If any group with mussel to create obstruction on mass scale to others, is allowed to dictate terms, the news is bad.
An elected government cannot afford such a situation. Lot of agitations have learnt the lessons in the past that without a real mass support such agitations do not achieve much, an Arab Spring is not possible in India .
DO NOT TAKE THE CONCILIATORY APPROACH FOR WEEKNESS.
Threats of children fighting on the boarder etc. mean nothing and media high lighting them is even more irresponsible because it gives wrong ideas to undesirable elements. Both the ISI and pro-Khalistani elements are bound to fish in the troubled waters and anything that encourages them must be avoided, something the educated media is expected to know better than the farmers.
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