Agri Business

No headway in Centre-farmers dialogue

Our Bureau New Delhi | Updated on January 15, 2021

Minister of Agriculture & Farmers Welfare, Narendra Singh Tomar and Minister of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution, Piyush Goyal address the media after meeting with the farmers’ leaders in New Delhi on Friday   -  Shiv Kumar Pushpakar

Key issues not resolved; next meeting on Jan 19

The Centre on Friday began and ended the ninth round of dialogue with the protesting farmers on a strained note, with both sides refusing to move from the stated positions on the contested farm laws. Farmers repeated their assertions of scaling up the agitation and doing a tractor rally on Republic Day and the Centre again refused to repeal the farm laws although both sides agreed to meet again on January 19.

The discussions reportedly revolved around amendments to the Essential Commodities Act. The participants said the issue of Minimum Support Price (MSP) would be taken up in the next round. As farmers started a clause-by-clause analysis of the Essential Commodities Act, Union Minister Piyush Goyal told them that the Centre is ready to make changes to the Act. Narrowing down of speculative power, lack of a constant regulatory power for numerous regulatory tools, issue of price rise and lack of clarity on imposition of stock limits, etc, were taken up during the meeting.

The meeting also took up issues of Food Corporation of India, the Shanta Kumar Committee report, continuation of PDS, etc. Goyal answered most of the queries by leaders of farmers. The issue of financial health of the Food Ministry and institutions under it also came up for discussion.

Talking to reporters after the meeting, Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar said talks took place over three farm laws but couldn’t reach a decisive stage. “We suggested they can form an informal group of people who can understand the laws better and prepare some concrete proposals, detailing what are farmers’ expectations and what clauses are problematic for them, which the government can consider with an open mind,” he said.

He said the farmers want to continue the dialogue with the government and they have no problem with that. “The SC-appointed panel will also work for the welfare of farmers,” he claimed.

Negative, say farmers

Farmers reiterated in the meeting that they will not go the committee appointed by the Supreme Court. All India Kisan Sabha general secretary Hannan Mollah said they raised the issue of ‘revengeful approach’ of the Centre against farmers. They also raised ongoing investigation by the National Investigating Agency against some transporters in Punjab. “This meeting was doubly negative. The government was not ready to discuss MSP. There was no point in sitting in the meeting. Our protest plans will continue as planned. We will hold a Republic Day parade after the official parade. We are not for a confrontation. They are portraying us as confrontationists,” Mollah added.

Another leader of the farmers Darshan Pal said the meeting was “120 per cent negative”. He said whenever details of the Essential Commodities Act were discussed, the government offered amendments. Leader of the Alliance for Sustainable and Holistic Agriculture, Kavitha Kuruganti, said the dialogue will continue. She said the unions objected to the efforts to malign the movement by portraying that people from only one religion are part of it.

Opposition leaders condemned the Centre for not finding a resolution to the problems of farmers. Former president of the Congress Rahul Gandhi said more than sixty farmers died but Prime Minister Narendra Modi is silent. “He will respond to the threats to democracy in United States. Farmers have been dying here, but not a single tweet. Let farmers die in hundreds, but it doesn’t impact Modi,” Gandhi said.

CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury said the Centre obdurately refuses reasonable proposal to first repeal laws and then discuss with farmers and all stakeholders about agriculture reforms and bring fresh proposals for parliamentary scrutiny. “60 kisans are martyred and protests continue with determination,” he said, reaffirming solidarity with the farmers.

Published on January 15, 2021

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