Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Farmers’ protests: Unions reject Govt offer to set up committee; talks remain inconclusive

Farmers' leaders show solidarity gesture before meeting Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar and Union Minister for Industry and Commerce Piyush Goyal, at Vigyan Bhavan. -Photo: ANI

New Delhi, December 1: The government on Tuesday suggested setting up a committee to look into issues raised by farmers protesting against new farm laws, but it was rejected by representatives of 35 agitating organisations during their marathon meeting with three union ministers that ended without any resolution.
The meeting at Vigyan Bhawan remained inconclusive and the government has called for another round of discussions on Thursday, December 3, union leaders said.
Government officials said the dialogue would continue and the next round of talks has been scheduled for Thursday.
However, another round of meeting got underway later in the evening at the Agriculture Ministry with representatives of Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU), the officials said.
BKU leader Naresh Tikait also said another delegation of farmer leaders was meeting the government at 7 pm.
He said issues other than the recently enacted farm laws are also likely to be discussed, and mentioned power tariffs for farmers among the probable talking points.
The meeting was expected to be attended by representatives from Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi and Uttarakhand, Tikait told reporters at the Delhi-Ghaziabad border while on his way for the meeting.
This meeting began soon after the end of the first one with a much larger group at Vigyan Bhawan, where the farmer representatives were unanimous in seeking repeal of the three laws that they have been terming as being against the interest of the farm community.
The protesting farmers have expressed apprehension that the Centre’s farm laws would pave the way for the dismantling of the minimum support price system, leaving them at the mercy of big corporates.
The government has maintained that the new laws will bring farmers better opportunities and usher in new technologies in agriculture.
At the nearly three-hour-long meeting at Vigyan Bhawan, Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar was accompanied by Railways and Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal and Minister of State for Commerce Som Parkash, also an MP from Punjab.
After the meeting, Bharat Kisan Union (Ekta Ugrahan) President Joginder Singh Ugrahan said it remained inconclusive and the government has called for another meeting on December 3.
“We are ready for a discussion to resolve their issues. Let’s see,” Tomar had told reporters before the start of the meeting.
He further said the government will arrive at a solution after hearing the representatives of the farmer organisations.
“The farmer’s organisations rejected the government’s proposal to form a five-member committee to look into the issues related to the new farm laws,” Roopsingh Sanha, member of Bharatiya Kisan Union (Ekta Ugrahan), told PTI.
It is one of the largest blocks of farmers who have been protesting against the new laws.
The government side was, however, firm in its stand that a high-level committee must be formed to look into the issues and wanted the farmer representatives to further consider the proposal.
Sources said the ministers were of the view that it was difficult to reach a decision while interacting with such large groups and therefore they suggested meeting with a smaller group, but the farmer leaders were firm that they would meet collectively only.
Union leaders said they feared the government might be trying to break their unity and the momentum of their protest.
“The government asked us to give names of 5-7 members to form a small committee for better discussion, but we rejected it. We said we all will be present,” BKU (Dakaunda) Bathinda District President Baldev Singh said.
“The government is insisting for a small group because they want to divide us. We are very well aware of the government’s tricks,” he alleged.
Heavy security arrangements were in place around the meeting venue.
Hours before the meeting, Union ministers Rajnath Singh, Amit Shah, Tomar and Goyal, along with BJP chief J P Nadda, had held marathon discussions over the farmers’ protest against the Centre’s new agriculture reform laws.
Peaceful sit-ins by farmers, mostly from Punjab and Haryana, continued at the Singhu and Tikri borders with no untoward incident reported after Friday’s violence, while the numbers of protestors swelled at the Ghazipur border on Monday.
The opposition parties too stepped up the pressure, asking the Centre to “respect the democratic struggle” of the farmers and repeal the laws.
An earlier meeting on November 13 had failed to give any breakthrough and the next one was originally scheduled for December 3, but it got advanced due to the ongoing protests on Delhi borders. (PTI)