Union agriculture minister Narendra Singh Tomar said on Friday that the Centre is ready to resume talks with protesting farmer unions over provisions of the three contentious agricultural laws, though he ruled out a withdrawal of the reforms.
“The Government of India is ready to have a discussion with any farmer union on provisions of the new agricultural laws. We welcome them for talks,” a rough translation of Tomar’s tweet, posted in Hindi, read.
“Except repeal, if any farmer union is ready to discuss provisions of the acts even at midnight, I would welcome them,” Tomar says in a video clip he attached with his tweet. In the clip, the minister is responding to a reporter’s question.
Talks between the central government and farmer unions have stalled since they last met on January 22; the two sides have held 11 meetings thus far. In the January 22 meeting, the unions rejected the government’s proposal to put the laws on hold for up to 18 months, instead reiterating their demand for a complete rollback. The proposal to put the laws on hold was suggested in the tenth round of talks on January 20. The Centre has repeatedly stated it won’t take back the reforms.
Earlier, on January 11, the Supreme Court stayed the implementation of the three laws till further orders.
Farmers, mostly from Punjab and Haryana, have been protesting against the laws on the borders of Delhi since November last year. Besides a full withdrawal, the farmers also want a legal assurance on minimum support price (MSP).
The Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce Act, 2020; The Farmers’ Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020; and The Essential Commodities Act, 2020, were passed in September last year, triggering widespread protests. Farmers allege these will end the mandi and MSP procurement system, thus leaving them at the mercy of big corporates. The government has called their apprehensions “misplaced.”
On January 26, a tractor rally taken out by the farmers in Delhi on the occasion of Republic Day resulted in clashes between a section of protesters and the police.