Leaders of protesting farmers will meet government representatives in New Delhi today to hold the eighth round of talks over the new agricultural laws that have sparked a furore across the country. The protesters have threatened to hold a tractor rally in the national capital on Republic Day if their demands are not met. The last meeting, on January 4, failed to break the stalemate with farmers insisting on the repeal of the new laws introduced in September.
Today’s meeting, to be held at Vigyan Bhavan in New Delhi,. On Thursday, the farmers took out a tractor rally along the Delhi borders – a rehearsal for the main one planned for January 26 if the talks fail.
Following the seventh round of talks, at least one farmer union involved in the parleys had asked the protesters to prepare for the long haul, since the government had clearly refused to consider the repeal of the laws. They also want a law that guarantees the minimum support price.
“We will discuss these three laws point-by-point and we are ready to make amendments as necessary after considering the points on which you have objections,” a release from the Narendra Tomar-led agriculture ministry said quoting him.
Since the seventh round, both sides seem to have toughened their respective stands. While farmers took out tractor rallies, Mr Tomar met Sanjay Nath Singh, the grandson of former PM Lal Bahadur Shastri, on Wednesday. Mr Singh, who supports the three new farm laws, told NDTV that the MSP system was launched by PM Shastri to protect the interests of Farmers. The contours of the agricultural economy, however, had changed today and farmers should be given the freedom to sell their produce, Mr Singh added.
Mr Tomar has also met a Sikh priest named Baba Lakha Singh of Ludhiana’s Nanaksar Gurudwara to mediate between the government and the farmers.
Thousands of farmers from Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, and other states are camped in and around Delhi over the past many weeks in protest against the new farm laws.
The contentious laws are: Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020, the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020, and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020.
The protesters view these pieces of legislation as threatening their long-term financial position and bargaining power. The government, however, insists these will only free them more than ever to trade their produce in a wider market.
Over 60 farmer protesters have died till now, many because they could not survive the extreme weather conditions.
In December, the Supreme Court had ordered that a special committee be formed, insisting that the Centre’s negotiations have failed. “Your negotiation will again fail as they (the farmers) won’t agree,” said the bench led by Chief Justice of India Sharad Arvind Bobde.