Centre wants unions to be more flexible, next meeting on Jan 19

Vibha Sharma
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 15

Protesting farmer unions stuck to their demand for a complete repeal of the three contentious farm laws at the ninth round of talks with three central ministers — Narendra Singh Tomar, Piyush Goyal and Som Prakash. 

Tomar, who asked unions to be more flexible in approach, also told them that they should form “formal and informal groups and discuss the laws to prepare concrete proposals for discussions in the next meeting”. 

Also read: Govt wants farmer unions to form informal group to prepare concrete proposals: Tomar

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He said the government is hopeful of discussions reaching a decisive stage in the tenth round on January 19.    

Apparently, at one point during the five-hour plus meeting today, Tomar also asked unions when exactly the agitation will be called off and what will it take?  Tomar wanted to know if unions will withdraw the protests if one of the two main demands (that is, either MSP guarantee or repeal of the three laws) is met. 

He also said what is the point in discussing MSP when the repeal agenda is important enough that the ‘andolan’ will not be called off without that being acceded to.  

Kavitha Kurunganti of the Samyukta Kisan Morcha said unions clarified that both are equally important demands and the next meeting’s agenda was fixed on both these points and not just one or the other.

Both sides reaffirmed commitment to continue with the direct dialogue process, “It was reiterated that the resolution will happen only through this route. The government, of course, said that it is also bound by the Supreme Court processes,” Morcha leaders said.

Dr Darshan Pal said they opposed the government’s claim that the Supreme Court should decide to repeal these laws.

“The Lok Sabha is the house of people elected by the people of India.  These laws have been made by Parliament and should be repealed by Parliament,” he said.

Unions said the two Cabinet ministers also “congratulated the movement for its disciplined and peaceful conduct so far” and also made it clear that the ongoing movement has nothing to do with Sikhs for Justice and therefore, there should be no projection from the government’s side also that they are involved”. 

Farmer leaders arrive at Vigyan Bhawan to attend the ninth round of meeting on farm bills with the government, in New Delhi on Friday. Tribune photo: Manas Ranjan

Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar; Railways, Commerce and Food Minister Piyush Goyal; and Minister of State for Commerce Som Parkash hold talks with farmer leaders at the Vigyan Bhawan in New Delhi on Friday. Credits: Government sources

There was also a discussion on “Home Ministry and state police repression on people associated as well as not associated with the ongoing movement, including NIA raids on transporters in Punjab  providing logistic support for the agitation,” said Joginder Singh Ugrahan. 

“The government promised that it will address the issue of questioning by NIA/Home Ministry and lodging of FIRs against protesters in the movement by Haryana government and the incident in Andhra Pradesh where BJP and Bajrang Dal workers disrupted a farmers’ protest,” Morcha leaders said.

On the issue of ECA amendments, there was back and forth on particular provisions as well as the general direction of the amendments. 

“Piyush Goyal defended some amendments and also suggested that some changes can be made in that Act too without quite saying that amendments will be made,” said Kavitha. The government, she said, was not keen on discussing the MSP issue today. 

However, there was a discussion on the financial health of the FCI, on whether the Shantha Kumar Committee recommendations will be implemented, and whether there is a threat to the PDS system.

Goyal said the government is in fact discussing ways of strengthening the FCI.

Farmer leaders arrive at Vigyan Bhawan to attend the ninth round of meeting on farm bills with the government, in New Delhi on Friday. Tribune photo: Manas Ranjan

Meeting between farmer leaders and Union Minsters under way at the Vigyan Bhawan.
Credits: Government sources

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