Tribune News Service
New Delhi, January 4
The first meeting of 2021 (otherwise the seventh round) between 40 unions and Central ministers ended without any outcome on the key issues — repealing of the three Farm Acts and a law on the MSP.
Farmers spoke only about repealing the three Acts. “We told the government there is no other alternative. The Government said they will consult further and get back. The next meeting is on January 8. The pressure is on the government. It (farmers’ agitation) is now a peoples’ movement,” said Jagmohan Singh Patiala, general secretary of BKU (Dhakaunda), after the meeting.
With the government also firm on its stance regarding the three laws, unions will now meet tomorrow to decide the next steps. “They (Union ministers Narendra Singh Tomar, Piyush Goyal and Som Prakash) kept saying the same thing over and over again — how good the laws are, how they will benefit farmers, etc. One thing is certain, we are not going home till the time the laws are repealed,” BKU leader Rakesh Tikait said.
The meeting started with paying ‘shradhanjali’ to farmers who lost lives during the agitation.
Tomar said the government is sensitive about farmers’ issues and offered clause-wise discussion on the three Acts. “The meeting was held in good atmosphere but farmers remained adamant on their demands and we could not arrive at any conclusion,” he said, though adding that the “issue will be resolved soon”.
“The date of the next meeting was decided with consensus,” Tomar said in response to accusations about farmers’ “lack of trust” in the government and its own “lack of interest” in resolving the issue. “It is an important issue involving the entire country, the government has to decide keeping in mind farmers across. The laws have been made keeping in mind their best interests,” he said.
Also read: Ahead of meet, Sonia seeks repeal of laws
Even while the government is keeping alive the communication channels with farmers, after today’s meeting it is more or less clear that it has ceded all it intends to make them end the agitation. So far, the government has relented on the proposed Power Act and the Ordinance on stubble pollution, say sources, adding that “this is about all it is willing to backtrack”.
With farmers threatening to escalate agitation, making it more intense and battle lines drawn so tightly, it seems both sides are depending upon the Supreme Court to provide them some elbow room to come out of the situation. “Given the kind of support the agitation has received from common people, the matter has moved out of the hands of union leaders for a resolution on a middle path now,” say observers.
The government has also shown “visible toning down on agitators and the agitation” and also offered a “joint committee on MSP”, which unions rejected, sticking to their demand for a legal framework to ensure minimum support price.
Today the talks were held up for quite some time during which Tomar and Goyal held a separate meeting while Som Prakash tried to “reason out” with group of union’ leaders. It is not just the three laws, farmers have also junked Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s claim of implementing recommendations of the Swaminathan Commission and are demanding a guaranteed MSP on 23 crops so that they can “diversify” from paddy and wheat.
As they draw elaborate plans for the month on Lohri, January 23—Netaji Subhas Chander Bose’s birth anniversary—and January 26, it is clear farmers are in no hurry to move from the Delhi borders despite prevailing adverse weather conditions.
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