The central government on Monday invited 40 protesting farmer unions for the next round of talks on December 30 to find a “logical solution” to the current impasse over the three new farm reform laws. The government’s invite followed a proposal made by unions last week to hold the talks on December 29.
Although the protesting farmers had insisted that the meeting be held to discuss the repeal of the three laws, the government’s letter calling for talks remains open-ended and only says that discussions be held on the issues arising out of the agricultural reforms.
Protesting farmer unions have agreed "in-principle" to the government proposal, but said the Centre should have spelt out the agenda of the meeting in its invite.
"In our letter sent to the government on December 26, we had clearly mentioned that repeal of three farm laws and legal guarantee for MSP should be part of the agenda for fresh talks, but despite this, the government in its letter today has not mentioned any specific agenda," Abhimanyu Kohar, a member of the Samyukt Kisan Morcha - an umbrella body of 40 unions protesting against the contentious legislations - told news agency PTI.
Kohar said the government proposing to hold the talks on December 30, instead of agreeing to farmers' suggestion of December 29, shows the Centre wants to assert its control.
In a letter to the unions, agriculture secretary Sanjay Aggarwal invited them for holding talks at 2 pm on December 30 at Vigyan Bhavan in the national capital. So far, five rounds of formal talks held between the Centre and 40 protesting farmer unions remained inconclusive as both sides have stuck to their stand.
While the Centre did make some concessions, including a written guarantee of Minimum Support Price and cess on private mandis as well, the farmer unions have refused to back down from their demand of a complete repeal of the three laws. With both sides not able to find a middle ground, talks had stalled earlier this month.
Taking note of the unions’ offer to resume talks, Aggarwal said, “The government is also committed to finding a logical solution on all relevant issues with a clear intention and an open mind.”
Even as the government offered to talk to the protesters, union agriculture minister Narendra Singh Tomar on Monday said the new farm laws have received widespread acceptance across the country. He also expressed hope of a resolution to the farmers' protest that has been raging outside the borders of the national capital for more than a month.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, too, had on Friday clarified the government’s stand on the new laws and enumerated its benefits, while blaming the opposition parties for politicising the protests.
Thousands of farmers, especially from Punjab, Haryana and parts of Uttar Pradesh, are camping at Delhi borders seeking repeal of the three farm laws. They have threatened to intensify their stir in the coming days if their demands are not fulfilled. The Singhu border, where thousands of farmers have been camping in protest against the new laws since November 28, visibly swelled up on Monday as new protestors joined in over the weekend.