New Delhi, Jan. 16:
The government on Friday asked protesting farmers to form an informal group to prepare a concrete proposal about their objections and suggestions on the three farm laws for further discussion at their next meeting on January 19 to end the long-running protest at various Delhi borders, but unions stuck to their main demand of a complete repeal of the three Acts.
As nearly five hours of talks between 41 unions and three central ministers did not reach a decisive stage in the ninth round of talks at Vigyan Bhawan here, the two sides decided to meet again the next Tuesday.
Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar told farmer leaders at the meeting that the government has been flexible in its approach and urged the same from them.
Incidentally, the tenth round of talks has been scheduled for a day when a Supreme Court-appointed committee to resolve the impasse is also likely to hold its first meeting. A day before that, the apex court is likely to hear a petition against a tractor rally call given by the protesting farmers for the Republic Day on January 26.
After the meeting, Tomar told reporters that two separate deliberations can run parallelly as the farmer unions want to continue their talks with the government and the court-appointed panel has also been set up with an aim to resolve the crisis and a solution can emerge from anywhere.
“Discussions happen at various platforms and a solution can emerge from anywhere… Our effort is to find a solution at the earliest through dialogue so that the farmers’ protest ends. Farmers are sitting in cold weather amid the threat of COVID-19 and the government is concerned about that also and is therefore engaging with farmers with an open mind,” he said.
The minister said the government will also present its side before the SC-appointed panel whenever it is asked to do so.
Farmer leader Joginder Singh Ugrahan said after the meeting that the unions urged the Centre to repeal the three laws, but the Centre was unwilling to do so.
Ugrahan said the union leaders also raised the issue of NIA raids on transporters in Punjab who are supporting farmers’ protests and were providing logistic support for the agitation.
Shivkumar Kakka, national president of Rashtriya Kisan Mazdoor Mahasangh, said the union leaders raised the issue of Income Tax raids on ‘arhtiyas’ (commission agents) in Punjab.
“Cases were also filed against 900 Haryana farmers under IPC section 307, while the NIA raided transporters and called them for interrogation. You are taking vindictive action against those who are helping us. This is not constitutional,” he said.
The farmer leader said that Tomar told them the government will look into it and see why it was happening.
Farmers union leaders, who had their own langar food during the lunch break, said at the meeting they are committed to continuing holding direct talks to resolve the over-one-month-long deadlock over three agri laws, even as a committee has been formed by the Supreme Court to resolve the deadlock.
In his opening remarks, Tomar urged farmer leaders to be flexible in their approach as has been done by the government.
Besides Tomar, Railways, Commerce and Food Minister Piyush Goyal and Minister of State for Commerce Som Parkash were part of the government side.