A meeting between farmer unions and three ministers on Monday ended without progress over three farm laws that have sparked protests at Delhi’s borders. The two sides will meet again on January 8, Friday.
Farmers' representatives refused to accept the option of amendment offered by the government, insisting that the laws be repealed. Agriculture minister Narendra Tomar is "still insisting that these laws are beneficial for farmers", said Sarwan Pandher, who attended the meeting as part of the Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Committee, according to NDTV.
Tomar said that laws "have been brought through parliament and the government is ready to amend the laws and incorporate the suggestions of farmers," said Pandher.
Tomar, Railways, Commerce and Food Minister Piyush Goyal and Minister of State for Commerce Som Parkash, who is an MP from Punjab, held talks with the representatives of 40 farmer unions at Vigyan Bhawan in Delhi for the seventh time. On December 30, a sixth round of talks between the government and the farmer unions led to the two sides agreeing on decriminalising stubble burning and continuing power subsidies.
The farmers demand the government repeal the three farm laws, enacted in September, which they say could make them vulnerable to retail giants like Walmart Inc and India’s Reliance Industries.
The government says the laws, which let growers bypass government-regulated wholesale markets and sell directly to buyers, are a reform that gives farmers more options. It has sought to assure the farmers that the guaranteed-pricing system will not be dismantled.
The two sides on Monday took a break after an hour of talks, allowing union representatives to eat food arranged from langar (community kitchen). Unlike the meeting on December 30, the ministers did not join the union representatives for the langar food and were seen talking to each other during the break, PTI reported.
The two sides resumed their talks at around 5.15 pm but did not make progress. Farmer leaders said they were the government would come back to the unions after internal consultations. The two sides did not discuss another key demand of farmers: legal guarantee for the minimum support price (MSP) procurement system.
Union leaders will hold meeting among themselves on Tuesday to decide their plan.
(With inputs from PTI and Reuters)