The eighth round of formal talks between the government and farmers’ groups agitating against the three contentious farm reform laws ended in an impasse as both sides refused to budge from their positions.
“We will meet again on January 15, but we don’t have much hope,” said Hannan Mollah, general secretary of the Left-led All India Kisan Sabha, after the meeting.
The Centre was represented by Union ministers Narendra Singh Tomar, Piyush Goyal and Som Parkash, who met leaders of the 40 protesting farmer unions at Vigyan Bhawan in New Delhi.
The ministers tried to convince the leaders that the farm laws were for their benefit. But they refused to a compromise anywhere less than a total rollback of the three farm laws.
“The government urged the protestors to put forward their demand other than a total repeal. I’m still hopeful that we’ll reach a consensus on January 15,” Union agriculture minister Narendra Singh told the media later.
“We’ve asked the farmers’ unions to come forward with their proposals. We’re sure we’ll find a solution through dialogue,” he added.
The meeting lasted for about two-and-half hours today.
Even during the meeting, farmers held placards saying “we’ll win or die” which depicted the general mood.
“Thousands of tractors were on roads in a protest march yesterday. You have seen it. The demonstration will continue till the laws are repealed. You’ll witness a bigger protest on January 26,” Hannan Mollah told Outlook before the meeting began.
He was referring to the “tractor march” held by protesting farmers on Thursday (January 7). This was an apparent build-up to prepare for a “parallel parade” with tractors on Republic Day. The cavalcade is proposed to move into New Delhi from various parts of Haryana, Punjab and Uttar Pradesh.
The last seven rounds of talks between the Centre and the farmer leaders remained inconclusive, although there was some “breakthrough” at a meeting on December 30 where the government conceded to two demands of the agitating farmers pertaining to power subsidy and stubble-burning.
Meanwhile, RSS-affiliated Bharatiya Kisan Sangh (BKS) has decided to launch what it called an “awareness programme” regarding the farm laws.
Called the “Jan-Jagran” programme, the BKS will reach out across 50,000 villages from January 26 to tell farmers about the three laws enacted recently.
The BKS is not a part of the farmers’ protest. The organisation does not want repeal of the laws but has sought some amendments to it.
Among its demands are that MSP legislation be amended, all traders be registered online, agriculture courts be set up in districts and to keep corporates out of the definition of “farmers”.