Govt proposes to hold farm laws for 1.5 years, but no solution yet; next meeting on Jan 22

Malini T
·10-min read

The government on Wednesday proposed to suspend the three contentious farm laws for one and half years and set up a joint committee to discuss the Acts to end the stalemate, but farmer leaders did not immediately accept the proposal and said they will revert after their internal consultations.

The next meeting has been scheduled for January 22, a day after the farmer unions hold their internal discussions on Thursday, farmer leaders said after the 10th round of talks ended at Vigyan Bhawan here after nearly five hours of talks, including two breaks.

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'The government proposed to suspend the farm laws for one and a half years. We rejected the proposal but since it has come from the government, we will meet tomorrow and deliberate over it,' Bharatiya Kisan Union (Ugrahan) president Joginder Singh Ugrahan said.

Talks held in cordial atmosphere despite some 'naram-garam' moments, Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar on 10th rounds of talks with farmers.

‘It will be a victory for Indian democracy the day farmers' agitation ends,’ said the Agriculture Minister.

‘Today's talks raise hope of resolving all issues about farmers' protest; the government wants agitation to end, talks can continue with unions,’ he said.

‘I am hopeful of reaching a solution to end farmers' protest in the next meeting on Jan 22,’ Tomar added.

Another farmer leader Kavitha Kuruganti said the government also proposed to submit an affidavit in the Supreme Court for suspending the three farm laws for a mutually-agreed period and set up a committee.

The leaders said unions are firm on their demand for a complete repeal of the laws, but they will still discuss the government's proposal and give their final decision in the next meeting.

During the meeting, the government also offered to amend the three laws but farmer leaders stuck to their demand and alleged that the Centre was avoiding discussion on a legal guarantee for MSP.

Farmer leaders said there was no breakthrough in the first two sessions as both sides were stuck on their stated positions vis-a-vis the three farm laws and there was little hope of any outcome other than fixing the date for the 11th round.

Sources said the government proposed to keep the three farm laws suspended for a fixed time period and form a committee comprising of farmer union leaders and government representatives.

The ministers proposed that the laws would remain suspended till the committee gives its report and urged farmer unions to suspend their agitation too till that time, sources added.

The laws have already been stayed till further orders by the Supreme Court, which has formed a committee to resolve the deadlock. The committee, which had its first meeting on Tuesday and will begin its consultations with various stakeholders on Thursday, has been asked to give its report in two months.

Farmer leaders also raised the issue of NIA notices being served to some farmers, alleging it was being done just to harass those supporting the agitation, to which the government representatives said they will look into the matter.

The two sides took a break after around one hour of discussions when farmer leaders had langar food.

The meeting began at around 2.45 pm with the three ministers greeting farmer leaders on the occasion of Gurupurab. The meeting resumed at around 5.15 pm after a lunch break, but the two sides took another break at around 6 pm during which the farmer leaders discussed the government proposal for suspending the laws for a fixed period of time.

Kuruganti said the meeting began with the NIA issue, followed by unions' demand for a repeal of the laws.

The farmer leaders presented multiple Parliament replies given by the agriculture minister where he had stated that agriculture is a state subject, while one reply mentioned even agri-marketing as a state subject.

She said the discussion did not appear progressing anywhere.

'The government offered to carry out some amendments, but farmer leaders maintained they do not want anything less than a complete repeal of the laws,' Tikait said.

Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar, Railways, Commerce and Food Minister Piyush Goyal and Minister of State for Commerce Som Parkash, who is an MP from Punjab, are holding the talks with the representatives of around 40 farmer unions at the Vigyan Bhawan here.

Before the meeting, the three ministers also met senior BJP leader and Union Home Minister Amit Shah.

The tenth round of talks was initially scheduled on January 19, but later got postponed to Wednesday.

In the last round of talks, the government had asked protesting farmers to prepare a concrete proposal about their objections and suggestions on the three farm laws for further discussion at their next meeting to end the long-running protest. But, unions stuck to their main demand of a complete repeal of the three Acts.

Thousands of farmers, mainly from Punjab, Haryana and western Uttar Pradesh, are protesting at various border points of Delhi for over a month now against the three laws. Farmer groups have alleged these laws will end the mandi and MSP procurement systems and leave the farmers at the mercy of big corporates, even as the government has rejected these apprehensions as misplaced.

On January 11, the Supreme Court had stayed the implementation of the three laws till further orders and appointed a four-member panel to resolve the impasse.

Bhartiya Kisan Union president Bhupinder Singh Mann had recused himself from the committee appointed by the apex court.

Shetkari Sanghatana (Maharashtra) president Anil Ghanwat and agriculture economists Pramod Kumar Joshi and Ashok Gulati are the other three members on the panel.

Under attack from protesting unions for their 'pro-government' public stand on three contentious farm laws, the members of the committee said that they would keep aside their own ideology and views while consulting various stakeholders, even as they indicated a complete repeal won't augur well for much-needed agriculture reforms.

Earlier in the day, a group of farm union leaders met top officials of Delhi, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh police to discuss the route and arrangements for their tractor rally on January 26 to protest against the three farm laws.

But the unions rejected a suggestion by police officers to hold their rally on the Kundli-Manesar-Palwal Expressway instead of Delhi's Outer Ring Road, sources said. (PTI)

SC irked over aspersions cast on court-appointed panel; sends notice to Centre on reconstituting the farm laws committee

The Supreme Court on Wednesday mounted a strong defence of the committee appointed by it to help resolve the ongoing farmers' protest even as it issued a notice to the Centre for its reconstitution after a petition was filed by a farmer union from Rajasthan, reported News18.

A three-judge bench led by Chief Justice of India SA Bobde expressed dissatisfaction over how “unnecessary aspersions” were cast on the members of the Committee after it was reported that all four had previously spoken in favour of the farm reform laws that have sparked the protests around Delhi.

“If you don' want to appear before the committee, we cannot compel you. But you cannot malign people like this and cast aspersions on them and also the court. If you don't want to appear, don't appear. Why do you need to brand people like this?” CJI Bobde told Prashant Bhushan and Dushyant Dave, who were appearing on the behalf of eight farmers unions.

Protesters and several opposition parties had raised objections saying the four members of the panel were in favour of the legislations. One of the members - Bhartiya Kisan Union president Bhupinder Singh Mann - last week had recused himself from the committee.

The CJI emphasised that all four members of the committee were “brilliant minds in the field” of agriculture and the fact that they had "expressed opinions earlier in different context doesn't mean they should be disqualified.”

“The Supreme Court appoints a committee and their reputation is torn to shreds!” the CJI remarked, adding that it was possible that the members of the committee could change their positions after they hear contradictory points of views while holding talks with the government and the farmers.

The CJI also reiterated his clarification that the Committee has not been given powers to adjudicate and is appointed only to assist the Court. "Committee was asked to listen to protesters and give us a report. Where is the question of bias in that,” he asked rhetorically.

Despite this, the court decided to issue a notice to the Centre on reconstitution of the committee as a vacancy has been created after the recusal by Mann. The court said the eight farmers unions represented by Bhushan and Dave were not being asked for a response since they have said that they would not appear before the committee that the court set up.

The court-appointed committee comprised Bhupinder Singh Mann, the national president of the Bhartiya Kisan Union and All India Kisan Coordination Committee; Dr Parmod Kumar Joshi, an agricultural economist who is also the Director for South Asia, International Food Policy Research Institute; Ashok Gulati, agricultural economist and former chairman of the Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices; Anil Ghanwat, the chief of Shetkari Sanghatana, who in articles written in the media have expressed views in favour of the farm laws.

After the committee members were accused of bias because of their views, Bhupinder Singh Mann had recused himself from the committee. (News18)

In the last round of talks, the government had asked protesting farmers to prepare a concrete proposal about their objections and suggestions on the three farm laws for further discussion at their next meeting to end the long-running protest. But, unions stuck to their main demand of a complete repeal of the three Acts.

Farmers' tractor rally on R-Day: Union leaders reject suggestion of alternative route

Meanwhile, farmer unions opposing the Centre's new agri laws on Wednesday rejected a suggestion by police officers to hold their proposed January 26 tractor rally on the Kundli-Manesar-Palwal Expressway instead of Delhi's busy Outer Ring Road, sources said.

Union leaders and officers of the Delhi, Uttar Pradesh and Haryana police forces had met at the Vigyan Bhawan here to discuss the route and arrangements of the proposed rally on Republic Day.

The sources said that the farmer leaders were suggested by the police officers to take out their rally on the Kundli–Manesar–Palwal (KMP) Expressway, but they did not agree.

The Outer Ring Road passes through several areas of Delhi such as Vikaspuri, Janakpuri, Uttam Nagar, Burari Peeragarhi and Pitampura.

There might be another round of talks with the police officers on Thursday, a farmer leader, who attended the meeting, said.

Thousands of farmers, mainly from Punjab, Haryana and western Uttar Pradesh, are protesting at various border points of Delhi for over a month now against the three laws. Farmer groups have alleged these laws will end the mandi and MSP procurement systems and leave the farmers at the mercy of big corporates, even as the government has rejected these apprehensions as misplaced.

On January 11, the Supreme Court had stayed the implementation of the three laws till further orders and appointed a four-member panel to resolve the impasse.

Bhartiya Kisan Union president Bhupinder Singh Mann had recused himself from the committee appointed by the apex court.

Shetkari Sanghatana (Maharashtra) president Anil Ghanwat and agriculture economists Pramod Kumar Joshi and Ashok Gulati are the other three members on the panel.

On Tuesday, the SC panel held its first meeting in the national capital.

Under attack from protesting unions for their 'pro-government' public stand on three contentious farm laws, the members of the committee said that they would keep aside their own ideology and views while consulting various stakeholders, even as they indicated a complete repeal won't augur well for much-needed agriculture reforms.

Earlier in the day, a group of farm union leaders met top officials of Delhi, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh police to discuss the route and arrangements for their tractor rally on January 26 to protest against the three farm laws. Inputs: PTI, ANI, News18

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