Union ministers meet farmer groups to break deadlock over agri laws

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New Delhi, Jan 8 (PTI) The eighth round of talks between protesting farmer unions and three central ministers got underway here on Friday afternoon to break the over-a-month-long deadlock on recent farm laws.

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.

On January 4, the seventh round of talks ended inconclusively as the unions stuck to their demand for a complete repeal of three farm laws, while the government wanted to discuss only the 'problematic' clauses or other alternatives to end the stalemate.

Before that, in the sixth round of talks held on December 30 last year, some common ground was reached on two demands -- decriminalisation of stubble-burning and continuation of power subsidies.

Earlier, Union Minister of State for Agriculture Kailash Choudhury hoped that a resolution will come out of Friday's meeting.

'I am hopeful that a resolution will be reached at Friday's meeting. We could have ended the deadlock by now had the protesting farmer unions discussed the issues raised at the first meeting,' he told PTI.

There was no demand for a repeal of the three farm laws at the first meeting, Choudhury added.

Just before the meeting, All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee (AIKSCC) member Kavitha Kuruganti said: 'If no solution arrived in today's meeting, we will continue with our plan of tractor rally on January 26.' 'Our main demand is repeal of the laws. We will not accept any amendments. Government is taking it as a prestige issue and not taking back the laws. But this is a life and death question for all farmers. There is no change in our stand since beginning,' she added.

The agitating farmers took out tractor rallies on Thursday to press their demand for a rollback of the laws, while the Centre asserted that it was ready to consider any proposal other than a repeal of the legislations.

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, despite the cold weather.

Enacted in September 2020, the 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 and leave them at the mercy of big corporations.

The government has maintained that these apprehensions are misplaced and has ruled out a repeal of the laws.

While several opposition parties and people from other walks of life have come out in support of the farmers, some farmer groups have met the agriculture minister over the last few weeks to extend their support to the three laws.

The government had sent a draft proposal to the protesting farmer unions last month, suggesting seven-eight amendments to the new laws and a written assurance on the MSP procurement system. PTI LUX JTR MJH BJ RC