The central government on Friday signalled that it was ready to walk away from talks with the farmers unions opposing the farm reform laws as the eleventh round of talks also failed to resolve the nearly-two-month long deadlock.
Hardening its stand, sources said the government told the farmers that its proposal to stay the implementation of the laws for 18 months “was its best and last offer” and asked them to reconsider the proposal, even as it reiterated that there was no deficiency in the law.
Agriculture minister Narendra Singh Tomar announced the next round of talks will happen only when farmers are ready to talk on the government’s proposal. Unlike earlier talks, no date was set for the next meeting. “We thought of accommodating your concerns, not because there was anything wrong with proposal. We gave you the best proposal. Unfortunately you rejected that,” he said at the meeting.
Sources told News18 that Friday's meeting lasted only 18 minutes and for the rest of the time, farm leaders were in a separate room. Tomar clearly and categorically told them that talks will only take place if you wish to discuss on the proposal offered by the government, they said.
The government's messaging is clear: it will not take any initiative for talks now. Tomar, addressing a press conference after the meeting, said he was "sad" because farmer leaders did not seem to have "farmers' welfare at the heart of (their) talks".
"Talks remained inconclusive as farmers' welfare was not at the heart of talks from the unions' side. I am sad about it... We asked them to reconsider our proposal as it is in the interest of farmers and the country," Tomar was quoted by news agency ANI. "We also told farmers to give their own proposal, other than repeal of the Acts, if they have got anything better than our offer," he said.
The farmers protesting against the three agricultural reform laws had on Thursday rejected the government’s proposal to stay the implementation of the three legislations for one-and-a-half years, and had reiterated their demand for a full repeal of the three laws.
The Samyukt Kisan Morcha, an umbrella body of unions leading protests at several Delhi border points, had also said the tractor protest on Republic Day would go on as planned.
A statement released by the morcha had said, "In a full general body meeting of the Samyukt Kisan Morcha today, the proposal put forth by the government yesterday (Wednesday) was rejected. A full repeal of three central farm acts and enacting legislation for remunerative MSP for all farmers were reiterated as the pending demands of the movement."
The government had put forward the proposal on Wednesday at the 10th round of negotiations with the farmers' unions, and it had evoked hope of a breakthrough as this was the first time that farmers did not reject the government offer immediately.