The eighth round of talks between protesting farmers and the Centre, like its predecessors, was inconclusive with both the sides seemingly looking towards the Supreme Court for a way out and deciding to meet again on January 15.
The Apex Court in all probability will hear all the issues concerning the legality of the legislations and the protests next week.
Both the protesting farmers and also the Central government might look at the various alternatives and options on the two sticking issues of repeal of the laws and legal guarantee for MSP before coming for the next round of negotiations, sources said.
“We could not reach at any conclusion on the two main demands of the protesting farmers that are repeal of the acts and a legal guarantee for MSP as farmers could not come up with any alternative which is why we have decided to again meet on January 15,” Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar said.
“We cannot and won’t repeal the laws as they have been passed by the country’s Parliament,” Tomar is believed to have told the farmers during the discussions.
Later, while addressing reporters, when asked whether the Central government is now waiting for a direction from the Supreme Court to break the deadlock, Tomar said every citizen in this country be it lawmakers or anyone else looks at the SC for guidance.
Meanwhile, farmer leader and representative of CPI (M) affiliated, All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS), Hannan Mollah, emerging out of the meeting said that farmers have told the Central government that they are ready to fight till death and going to the court is no option.
While, Joginder Singh Ugrahan, another protesting farmer leader said that it seems government is testing our strength, but we won't bow down.
“It seems we'll spend Lohri, Baisakhi festivals here,” Joginder Singh 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, have been holding talks with unions at Vigyan Bhawan in the heart of the national capital, while thousands of farmers have stayed put at various Delhi borders to protest against the three laws they find pro-corporate and against the existing mandi and MSP procurement systems.
At the outset, Tomar appealed to unions for discussions on the laws, while farm leaders reiterated their demand that the new Acts must be withdrawn, sources said, adding that the agriculture minister stressed on protecting the farmers' interest of the entire country.
"Our 'ghar wapsi' (return to home) can happen only if you do 'law wapsi' (repeal of laws)," a farmer leader said at the meeting.
"Ideally, the Centre should not interfere in agriculture matters as various Supreme Court orders have declared farming as a state subject. It seems you (the government) do not want to resolve the issue as talks have been happening for so many days. In that case, please give us a clear answer and we will go. Why to waste everyone's time," another farmer leader said at the meeting.
Around one hour after the meeting, the three ministers stepped out of the discussion hall for their own internal consultations, after union leaders decided to observe silence while holding out papers with slogans including 'Jeetenge ya Marenge' (We will either win or die).
The union leaders, however, refused to take a lunch break and stayed put in the meeting room, a source said.
Before the start of the meeting, Tomar had also met senior BJP leader and Home Minister Amit Shah for about an hour.
Later, Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar also met Shah.
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.
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 and heavy rains.
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.