Delhi Chalo protest

Fifth meeting between govt and farmer leaders ends inconclusively; call for Bharat Bandh on Dec 8 remains

Govt proposes next meeting on Dec 9; seeks time from farmer unions for concrete proposal

Vibha Sharma
Tribune News Service
New Delhi, December 5

The fifth round of talks between the BJP-led Central government and farmer’ leaders also ended without any breakthrough on Saturday.

The next meeting is now scheduled for December 9, a day after the ‘Bharat bandh’ call by unions on December 8.

“The government asked for some more time to present a concrete proposal. Ministers said they need further consultations within the government for that and proposed December 9 as the date for next meeting to which union leaders agreed,” said Kavitha Kuruganti of Mahila Kisan Adhikar Manch, one of the 40 unions invited for the talks with Union minister Narendra Singh Tomar, Piyush Goyal and Som Prakash on the contentious farm Acts.

After the meeting, Tomar again urged farmers to leave the path of agitation and give ‘sujhav’ (suggestions) to resolve the issue.

Therefore December 9 is the next meeting date proposed at 11 am.

Farmer leaders said just like their agitation they put forth their points before the union ministers peacefully.

They have agreed to the meeting on December 9. Farmer leaders said the government told them that after the amendments nothing will be left in the Bills, however, they persisted with their demands of complete roll back.

Earlier, seeking to break the deadlock over protests against the new farm laws, the government on Saturday told representatives of agitating farmers that their concerns are being looked into but the union leaders stuck to their demand for repeal of the legislations and threatened to walk out of the talks.

The government side, however, managed to convince the farmer leaders to continue the talks, which began at 2.30 pm earlier in the day.

This was the fifth round of talks between the government and representatives of farmers, thousands of whom are protesting at various borders of the national capital against what they claim are the laws meant to end the mandi system and minimum support price procurement system to give for benefits of corporates.

As the meeting resumed after a tea break in the evening, during which the farmer leaders had their own food and tea, they threatened to walk out if the government was not willing to scrap the three laws enacted in September.

While the government managed to convince them to continue with the talks, sources said some kind of division emerged among the participating farmer leaders on various issues proposed by the ministers.

Another source said the government also offered to take back cases filed against farmers for stubble burning, as also the cases filed against some farmer activists.

Later in the evening, the ministers began talking to smaller groups of 3-4 farmer leaders, out of the total 40 representatives present there.

Farmer leaders were firm, saying that either say 'yes' or 'no' on taking back the laws, even though ministers said that the government is ready for amendments to the laws .

All members of delegation decided to keep silent. The government side was trying to draw us out, they said. 

Farmer leaders were trying to force the government to say in black and white if it will repeal the laws. The government was not responding to this pinpointed question, they said.

Ahead of their meeting with farmers, Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar, Home Minister Amit Shah and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh met Prime Minister Narendra Modi to discuss the matter.

Sources say Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar has requested farmer leaders to ask elderly and young children to go back while farmers are saying that everyone is prepared to stay put.  So far there does not appear any middle path though.

Farmers are also not ready to take back the call for ‘Bharat’ bandh.

Sources say the three ministers, Narendra Singh Tomar, Piyush Goyal and Som Prakash, are holding independent consultations.

While the government is insisting on a middle path, farmer leaders are firm on their key demands around four hours into the meeting. 

Minister of State for Commerce Som Parkash, who is from Punjab, also addressed the leaders in Punjabi and said the government understands the sentiments of Punjab.

While farmers are insisting on a special Parliament Session, ministers once again held closed door meeting, apparently to apprise senior leaders about the situation.

The government wants a middle path and says it is ready for amendments.

While the Opposition parties in states namely Bihar and Tamil Nadu are mounting pressure, the agitation is now being seen as a ‘jan andolan’ movement of farmers, common people, and youngsters and farmer leaders are also under tremendous pressure not to budge from the stated stance.

The first round of talks for the day is over.

Sources say there is a 15-minute break in the meeting, the government has given a written reply to unions on the issues related to changes in the laws.

Farmers said they were willing to settle for nothing less than their stated stance and made it clear thar there was no middle path.

The meeting between 40 farmer unions and the Centre will resume soon at Vigyan Bhawan.

Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar, Consumer Affairs Minister Piyush Goyal, Union Minister of State Som Prakash and Agriculture Secretary Sanjay Agarwal have joined the talks from the government side while the Bharatiya Kisan Union, the Bharatiya Kisan Sanyukt Morcha and the Krantikari Kisan Union are among the 40 farm organisations represented at the meeting.

Ahead of the ‘nirnayak’ meeting, Tomar again expressed hope of positive results.

Farmers burn an effigy during their protest march against the new farm laws, at Singhu border in New Delhi on Saturday. PTI Photo 

Sources say Home Minister Amit Shah also called up many union leaders, asking them to end the agitation.


Also read: Canada opposes MSP, has scarce interest in well-being of Indian farmers: BJP

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Left parties extend support to protesting farmers’ call for ‘Bharat Bandh’ on Dec 8


Farmer leaders from various organisations arrive to attend the meeting with the Centre at the Vigyan Bhawan in New Delhi on Saturday. Tribune Photo: Mukesh Aggarwal

RJD leader Tejashwi Prasad Yadav with party leaders stages a demonstration in solidarity with farmers protesting at Delhi borders over Centre's farm reform laws, at Gandhi Maidan in Patna on Saturday. PTI Photo 

As support pours in from across the country, farmer leaders also fear “attempts by the government” to “malign/break the movement”. 

Farmer unions have given a call for ‘Bharat bandh’ on December 8. Farmers will also be burning effigies of the Modi government and corporate houses today.

Barricades placed to stop farmers coming to Delhi during their protest march against the new farm laws, at Singhu border in New Delhi on Saturday. PTI Photo 

“It would have been better if they had given some suggestions,” the minister said after the four-hour plus meeting that followed four marathon consultations, three with Union ministers and one with Agriculture Secretary Sanjay Agrawal, earlier. 

“The Narendra Modi government is committed to the welfare of farmers. Today we held fifth round of talks with farmers. We said MSP will continue but if someone still has doubts the government is ready to dispel them. State mandis will continue, rather we will further strengthen APMC. When I said we are committed to welfare of farmers they should understand that all steps will be in their favour,” he said in a replay of earlier meetings.

“There were talks on various issues. We wanted suggestions on some issues but it did not happen.  Now another meeting will take place on December 9. We will discuss all the issues, but if there were some suggestions from farmer’ unions it would have been better. In the last meeting several points were identified,” he added.

Farmer representatives today chose to keep a ‘maun vrat’ (remain silent) for quite some time, a good 40 minutes according to Jagmohan Singh Patiala of BKU (Dakonda), as Union ministers kept pressing with merits of the laws, the middle-path and suggested amendments.

They also rejected Tomar’s suggestion to send elderly persons and children back home.

Holding files with “yes” or “no” written on them as placards, they  kept insisting on their key demands-rolling back of the three “black” Central Acts, the Air Pollution Ordinance and the Electricity (Amendment) Bill.

Minister of State for Commerce Som Parkash, who is from Punjab, said the government understands the sentiments of Punjab. He also tried to draw some of the leaders into conversation by speaking to them in Punjabi.

“Tomar kept asking why are we are insisting on the demands when the government is ready to affect amendments and agree on many issues,” Jagmohan Singh said.

President of the Krantikari Kisan Union Darshan Pal said ministers kept repeating about amendments even while unions told them that they don’t need amendments.

“They said they will hold a meeting and send a fresh proposal by tomorrow evening,” he said. Farmer unions also gave examples of the support to their agitation, including from Canadian PM Justin Trudeau 

While the ministers pitched for a middle path, farmers said the prime minister should consider the sentiments of the people.

“There was complete silence in the room for quite some time, on many occasions union leaders also tried to get up and leave,” they said.

It remains to be seen what happens on Wednesday when the next meeting is planned. Unions are seeing it as yet another attempt to “stretch matters and buy time”.

However, by keeping December 9 as the next date of the meeting, sources say the government has ensured that communication lines with farmers remain open till December 8, “otherwise the ‘Bharat bandh’ may have taken a different shape”.

Amid consultations, the ministers held closed-door meeting, apparently also apprised other senior ministers about the proceedings. Ahead of their meeting with farmers, Tomar, Home Minister Amit Shah and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh also met Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the first such meeting before talks with farmers

With the agitation now assuming the shape of a ‘jan andolan’, a movement of farmers, common people, and youngsters, the Opposition parties in states like Bihar and Tamil Nadu are also mounting pressure against the BJP. 

As support pours in from across the country, farmer leaders fear “attempts to malign/break the movement”. While farmer’ leaders are under tremendous pressure not to budge from the stated stance, the Centre is under attack for allowing the movement to fester for long and sound it like a Punjab agitation. Apparently Shah has individually called up several ‘jathebandis’, urging them to end the agitation.

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