Talks on farm laws: Centre, farmers yet to find middle ground

New Delhi | Updated on January 08, 2021

Minister of Agriculture & Farmers Welfare, Narendra Singh Tomar and Piyush Goel Minister of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution, addresses the media after meeting with the farmers leaders   -  THE HINDU

Farmers’ representatives at the Vigyan Bhawan in New Delhi on Friday; Minister of Agriculture & Farmers Welfare, Narendra Singh Tomar and Piyush Goel Minister of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution, addresses the media after meeting with the farmers leaders   -  -

8th round inconclusive as govt asks farmers to go to Supreme Court

One more round of talks between on farm laws failed on Friday with the farmers labelling the Government’s suggestion to take the Supreme Court route to resolve the stalemate as an effort to frustrate their movement.

The Government said it was open to alternatives to repealing the contentious laws and added that it will abide by the directions of the Supreme Court in this regard.

Although both sides agreed to resume the dialogue on January 15, the bitterness was apparent with the Government asking the farmers to find any solution other than repealing the laws and the farmers asserting that they would not withdraw their protest unless the laws are repealed. “We discussed the three bills but there was no resolution. We were interested in any alternatives to the demand of repeal but the farm unions did not put forth any such proposal,” said the Agriculture Minister. He added that in a democracy, laws passed by Parliament can only be reviewed by the Supreme Court and the Government will abide by its directions. Before meeting the farmers, the Ministers, Narendra Singh Tomar and Railway Minister Piyush Goel, met the Home Minister Amit Shah.

‘Why go to Court?’

According to farmer leader Kavitha Kuruganti, it is “unfortunate” that an elected Government should push a matter that is entirely in the policy domain to the Supreme Court.

“It is a very sad day indeed when an elected Government wants a policy issue resolved through the Supreme Court. The Court has already looked at the eviction-related issue and said that it is the democratic right of the farmers to protest. The second issue is related to the Constitutionality of whether the Centre has the right to pass such laws. Even if the Court looks at that aspect, the farmers are talking about the implications of this sort of policy direction and legislation. That is obviously a policy domain and not a legal or technical issue. We are very clear that it is a policy issue which has implications for the farmers and it is the Government that has to resolve it,” she said.

‘Let Govt go to court’

The suggestion, according to farmer leaders, was made by the Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar who reportedly said that the Supreme Court is examining the issue on January 11 and that they should approach the Court.

“We have told them that if the Government wants to approach the Court, they are free to do that. We want a resolution from them. It is a problem that they have created by bringing ordinances in the middle of the pandemic and pushing them through Parliament. We have been peacefully protesting for seven months. It is the duty of the Government to resolve this impasse and not frustrate or obfuscate the issue with technicalities,” said All India Kisan Sabha leader Hannan Mollah.

The Ministers’ contention that several farmers, whom the Government has consulted, support the laws, further angered the farmers’ representatives who maintained a 15-minute silence in protest against the Government’s “intransigence”.

The farmers are against the three farm reform laws – the Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation Act, Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act and the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services. These relate to freeing farmers from selling produce only through regulated markets, encouraging private sector and removing constraints of essential commodities Act.

Published on January 08, 2021

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