The government on Thursday again invited protesting farmer unions for talks, but made it clear that it would not be "logical" to include in the agenda any new demand related to minimum support price (MSP), which is out of the purview of three new farm laws. In a three-page letter written to 40 farmer leaders, Joint Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers' Welfare Vivek Aggarwal said, "I again request you that the government has been discussing all issues with open heart and good intention to end the protest, and will continue to do so. Kindly suggest a date and time (for the next round of talks)."
Previous five rounds of talks between the government and the unions have failed to break the deadlock with the farmers insisting on repeal of the three laws and camping at various border points of Delhi for nearly a month now.
Aggarwal asked the union leaders to provide details of other issues they want to discuss. "The talks will be held at Vigyan Bhawan in New Delhi at a ministerial level," he said. On MSP, Aggarwal said the farm laws have no connection with the price regime nor would have any impact on the procurement of farm produce at the fixed rates.
This has been told to the unions in every discussion and it has also been made clear that the government is ready to give written assurance on MSP, he said. "Any new demand related to MSP, which is out of the ambit of farm laws, is not logical to include in the talks. As informed earlier, the government is ready to discuss all the issues raised by farmer unions," he noted.
Aggarwal's letter has come in response to the Samyukt Kisan Morcha's December 23 letter, through which it had informed the government that the farmer unions are ready for talks but asked it to send a "concrete proposal in writing instead repeating rejected proposals around meaningless amendments." In the December 24 letter, the government reiterated that it is ready to find a "logical solution" on the issues raised by protesting farmer unions. Aggarwal said it is important to keep all doors open for discussion for the government. It is the responsibility of the government to listen to farmer organisations and farmers and the government cannot deny this.
The government with open heart has held several rounds of discussion with farmer unions under the Samyukt Kisan Morcha and urged them to choose a date as per their convenience for the next round of talks, he added. Thousands of farmers from Punjab, Haryana, UP and some other states are protesting against the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, Farmers Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act.
Enacted in September, the three farm laws have been projected by the central government as major reforms in the agriculture sector that will remove the middlemen and allow farmers to sell anywhere in the country. However, the protesting farmers have expressed apprehension that the new laws would pave the way for eliminating the safety cushion of Minimum Support Price and do away with the mandi system, leaving them at the mercy of big corporates.