Talks between three union ministers and a representative group of thousands of agitating farmers failed to yield any resolution on Thursday, as the union leaders stuck to their demand for the repeal of new farm laws and even refused the lunch, tea and water offered to them during almost eight-hour-long hectic parleys.
On its part, the government assured the group of nearly 40 farmer leaders that all their valid concerns would be addressed, but the other side flagged several loopholes and deficiencies in the laws, which they said were passed hastily in September.
The Agriculture Ministry tweeted that doubts of farmers were addressed by Agriculture and Farmers Welfare Minister Narendra Singh Tomar, who led the government side at the talks.
Tomar later told reporters that the next meeting will take place on Saturday at 2 pm.
A government source said the meeting would resume on Saturday as no final outcome could be reached due to paucity of time.
Union leaders, who came out of the meeting venue shouting slogans, said the talks remained deadlocked and some of them threatened to boycott any further meetings if no solution was found at Thursday’s meeting.
“Discussions are over from our side. Our leaders have said they will not attend further meetings if a solution is not given today by the government,” said Pratibha Shinde, AIKSCC (All India Kishan Sangharsh Coordination Committee) working group member and president of Lok Sangharsh Morcha, which represents farmers of Maharashtra and Gujarat.
Another farmer leader Kulwant Singh Sandhu said the government made many proposals including on MSP and procurement system, which would be discussed among the farmer organisations on Friday, before the next meeting with the government on Saturday.
Sources said the government gave a detailed presentation on the three new laws and asserted its intent towards the welfare of the farmers.
However, the union leaders rejected the government’s position at their fourth round of talks with three Union ministers at Vigyan Bhawan here. Besides Tomar, the government side included Railways and Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal and Minister of State for Commerce Som Parkash, who is also an MP from Punjab.
The 40 farmer leaders present at the meeting refused the lunch offered by the government and preferred to eat the food ferried in a van from the Singhu border, where thousands of their colleagues are sitting in protest against the new agri laws.
They also did not accept tea and water offered to them during the meeting, which began around mid-day.
The previous round of talks had taken place on December 1, but had ended in a stalemate even after three hours of discussion as farmers’ groups rejected the government’s suggestion of a new committee to look into issues raised by farmers protesting against the new laws.
The government had rejected the demand for repealing the laws and asked the farmers’ bodies to identify specific issues related to the newly enacted Acts and submit those by December 2 for consideration and discussion on Thursday.
Enacted in September, the laws have been presented by the government as major reforms in the agriculture sector by removing middlemen and allowing farmers to sell anywhere in the country.
However, the protesting farmers have been worried that the new laws will eliminate the safety cushion of a Minimum Support Price (MSP) and procurement system, while rendering ineffective the mandi system that ensures earnings for various stakeholders in the farm sector.
On Wednesday, agitating farmers demanded that the Centre convene a special session of Parliament and repeal the new farm laws as they threatened to block roads in Delhi and “take more steps” if it failed to do so.
During their marathon meeting on Thursday, farmers’ leaders told the government to focus on resolving the issues instead of trying to be a good host by offering lunch, Shinde said.
“How can we have lunch offered by the government when our fellow farmers are sitting on roads,” said Shinde, whose organisation is among the 40 farmers’ groups engaged in the talks.
Thousands of farmers have been camping at the Singhu and Tikri borders of the national capital for the last eight days as part of their protest against the laws.