Centre offers suspension of agri laws for a mutually-agreed period; farmers say will discuss proposal

Next meeting scheduled on January 22; Glad farmers are discussing proposals, says Tomar

Vibha Sharma
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 20

In a major development on Wednesday, the BJP-led Centre offered to suspend implementation of the three contentious farm laws for “one to one-and-a-half years” or a period “mutually decided by the two sides”.

Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar said the government is also ready to give an affidavit in the Supreme Court to dispel any doubts on the proposal.

On the issue of MSP, the government offered a committee but farmers rejected it, according to the Samyukta Kisan Morcha.

However, agitating unions said they are firm on their demand for a complete repeal of the three laws but will still discuss the government’s proposal on Thursday.

Their next meeting with the three union ministers is now scheduled for January 22.

Briefing the media, Tomar said he was “hopeful of positive result (in other words farmers taking up the offer of the government) in the next meeting”.

“It will be a victory for Indian democracy the day farmers end the agitation,” he added.

Tomar said being the ‘parkash utsav’ of Guru Gobind Singh, it was an important day and it was the effort of the government to arrive at some decision today.

“While the farmers, as usual, were stuck on their demand for a repeal, the government, with a big heart, was willing to offer amendments. Today’s day is dedicated to Guru Gobind Singh. We began by extending our wishes to unions and gave them the proposal to setup a joint committee to discuss all issues related to agitation and find solutions.

“I am glad they have decided to discuss the matter (amongst themselves). I am sure that the matter is reaching towards a conclusion. I am hopeful of a positive result on January 22,” he said. 

Regarding the Supreme Court order on the laws, Tomar said the government will honour its decision as also of the committee set up by it to look into the matter.

Samyukta Kisan Morcha leader Darshan Pal said just because unions have agreed to discuss the government’s proposal tomorrow does not mean that they have given up the demand of complete repeal of the three laws.

 

Farmer leaders arrive for the talks at Vigyan Bhawan in New Delhi on Wednesday. Tribune photo: Manas Ranjan Bhui

“First the 32 Punjab unions will discuss the proposal, later it will be taken up with farmer organisations from across India,” he said.

Viewing the proposal as a “partial victory”, some leaders said the government appeared to be on “back foot” and “worried”, especially after their decision to hold the tractor rally on January 26, the Republic Day.  

Speaking on the developments of the day, ‘morcha’ leader Kavitha Kuruganti said “to increase the unions’ belief and trust in the fact that they are very serious about the suspension idea, the government said they are willing to do this through an undertaking in the Supreme Court.

“Along with it, the government also talked about forming a committee that will then give recommendations regarding future of these laws, whether they should be amended or repealed etc,” she said

The modalities of the committee will be discussed after unions agree to the proposal of the government.  

“At one point during the discussion, the committee was projected as one that will also look into the MSP demand. Towards the end it was specified that it will only be about the three laws. The government also said laws can be suspended for mutually agreed period,” leaders said  

While the Centre remains firmly against repealing the controversial laws, Tomar reportedly also told farmers they could approach the SC because “many farmers are also supporting the laws”.

Unions, however, said since the laws have been formulated by the Parliament, they should also be repealed by it.

“Farmers presented multiple replies in Parliament by the minister (Tomar) where he has stated that agriculture is a state subject, and in one reply also that Agriculture Marketing is a state subject,” leaders said.

They also flagged issues related to NIA summons to some leaders and arrest of three farmers from Shimla.

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