Farmers, most of them from Punjab and Haryana, want the new farm laws scrapped.
The sixth round of talks between the Central government’s representatives and farm leaders concluded on December 30 with the two sides arriving at a consensus on two of the four demands raised by the protesting farmers.
There was, however, no agreement on the two other demands - chalking out modalities of repealing the three legislation and giving a legal guarantee on the Minimum Support Price (MSP). The two issues are expected to be taken up in the next round of talks scheduled on January 4.
As for the demands agreed, the farmers will not be penalised for stubble burning as mentioned under the contentious ‘Commission for the Air Quality Management in National Capital Region and Adjoining Areas Ordinance, 2020’. The government has also agreed to withdraw the draft ‘Electricity Amendment Bill 2020’ to protect the interests of farmers.
"Today's talks were held in a very good environment and concluded on a positive note. Consensus on two out of the four issues was reached between both the sides," Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar said after the meeting at Vigyan Bhawan.
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The government said the meeting was decisive. Farmers' union leaders said it was half victory hoping that the other two demands will be accepted in the next meeting.
Punjab Kisan Union state president Ruldu Singh Mansa said after the meeting that the government has offered to withdraw the electricity amendment bill and to amend the ordinance to remove the penal provision on farmers in stubble burning cases.
"There is still a deadlock over the three farm laws being scrapped. We couldn't reach a consensus with them on MSP. On issue of stubble burning, government agreed to exclude farmers from fine. On electricity issue, govt has taken back the Electricity Amendment Bill, 2020," Krantikari Kisan Union President Darshan Pal told news agency ANI
Minister of Railways Piyush Goyal and Minister of State for Commerce Som Prakash represented the government side, apart from Tomar, while the farmers were represented by leaders from at least 40 farm organisations.
The government appealed to farmers to end the protest and celebrate the New Year in their homes.
The meeting on December 30 was the first round of talks between the two sides since December 5. The earlier round of talks scheduled for December 9 was called off a day after an informal meeting of Home Minister Amit Shah with some Union leaders failed to reach any breakthrough.
The union leaders had said before the meeting on December 30 that they will stick to their four specific demands, including chalking out modalities of repealing the three legislation and giving a legal guarantee on the MSP despite the government having reiterated that it was open to amendments, but there was no question of repealing the farm reform laws.
READ: Farmers’ protest: Four-point agenda put forward by farmer unions for December 29 meet with Centre
During the meeting, there were scenes of bonhomie between the two sides as the ministers joined the leaders during the lunch break on December 30. Food was served to the ministers by the farmer leaders.
In the earlier meetings, farmers would bring their own food cooked at langars set up at various protest sites while ministers and other government representatives s had lunch separately.
Ministers Tomar and Goyal met home minister Amit Shah twice in the national capital on December 29 to discuss and finalise the government’s position for the negotiations.
For more than a month now, thousands of farmers, mostly from Punjab, Haryana and parts of Uttar Pradesh, are camping along Delhi borders seeking repeal of the three agri-reform laws.
The Centre has projected these farm laws as major agriculture reforms aimed at helping farmers and increasing their income, but the protesting unions fear that the new legislation have left them at the mercy of big corporates by weakening the MSP and mandi systems.
Flagging off the 'Kisan Rail' on December 28, Prime Minister Narendra Modi asserted that his government had undertaken historic reforms in the farm sector to boost agriculture and strengthen farmers.Read more about Moneycontrol's coverage about Farmers' Protest here