Centre serious in resolving farmers' issue: Union Minister Som Prakash

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Kapurthala (Pb), Feb 5 (PTI) Union Minister Som Prakash, who has been one of the key persons engaged in holding multiple round of talks with the farmer union leaders, on Friday said the Centre is serious in resolving the issue and said he was quite optimistic that it would be amicably settled.

The Union Minister of State for Commerce and Industry said the “Centre is very much serious in resolving the farmers' issue”.

He was speaking to the media after inaugurating an election office of the BJP at Kapurthala.

Asked when the next round of talks with agitating farmers would start again, he hinted that these would start soon but did not elaborate on when.

Replying to a question on whether the farmers' protests against the Centre's three farm laws will have any bearing on the saffron party's prospects in upcoming municipal corporation and municipal council elections scheduled to be held on February 14 in Punjab, the Union minister said the polls are always fought on local issues.

Earlier, he inaugurated an election office of BJP in the city, an event in which many local leaders of the saffron party and some of the BJP candidates for the civic polls participated.

The police, meanwhile, prevented some agitating farmers from reaching the site of the BJP function to hold a protest there and stopped them at some distance away near the Masjid Chowk.

Earlier, talks between the government and 41 protesting farm unions have remained inconclusive even after multiple rounds of discussions. During the 10th round of talks, the central government had climbed down and offered a proposal to keep the new laws in abeyance for 1-1.5 years, but it was rejected by the unions.

Protesting farmers are demanding repeal of the farm laws.

The Samyukta Kisan Morcha spearheading the agitation against the farm laws had said on Saturday that there was no question of closing the door on talks with the government.

The farmer union's statement came after Prime Minister Narendra Modi had told an all-party meeting last week that his government's offer on agri laws made to the protesting farmers 'still stands' and it was a 'phone call away' for talks.

Thousands of farmers have been protesting at Delhi's borders with Haryana and Uttar Pradesh demanding the rollback of the Farmers' Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020, the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020 and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020. The protest took a violent turn during the farmers' tractor rally on January 26 during Republic Day.

Enacted in September last year, the central government has presented these laws as major farm reforms aimed at increasing farmers' income, but the protesting farmers have raised concerns that these legislations would weaken the minimum support price (MSP) and 'mandi' (wholesale market) systems by leaving them at the mercy of big corporations.

The government has maintained that these apprehensions are misplaced and ruled out a repeal of the laws. PTI CORR SUN VSD HDA