Govt. invites farmers for more talks

Previous five rounds of talks have failed to break the deadlock with the farmers insisting on repeal of the three laws

The government on Sunday asked protesting farmer unions to specify their concerns over its earlier proposal of amendments in the new agri laws and choose a convenient date for the next round of talks so that the ongoing agitation could end at the earliest.

In a letter to 40 union leaders, Union Agriculture Ministry Joint Secretary Vivek Aggarwal said the Centre is making all efforts with “an open heart” to find an appropriate solution to resolve all the concerns raised by farmers.

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 over three weeks now.

Mr. Aggarwal said that in its draft proposal sent on December 9, the government had proposed to make necessary amendments on at least seven issues, including providing a “written assurance” to the farmers that the existing minimum support price (MSP) system would continue.

But the unions had rejected the proposal in an email sent by Krantikari Kisan Union state president Darshan Pal on December 16.

In the latest letter which was also sent to Mr. Pal, Mr. Aggarwal said the farmer unions’ response to the government’s draft proposal was “very brief”.

It does not specify the reason for rejecting the draft proposal. “It is not clear if the views are yours (Pal) or of all unions,” he said in the letter in Hindi.

Mr. Aggarwal requested that the union leaders who have been in talks with the government provide details of their remaining concerns and doubts over its draft proposal, and “suggest a date as per convenience for the next round of talks”.

The government intends to convene the next meeting at Vigyan Bhawan in New Delhi for resolving the issue so that the ongoing protests end at the earliest, he added.

The letter also mentioned that the government held meetings with several other farmers’ organisations and sought their suggestions on the matter.

Earlier in the day, Home Minister Amit Shah said it is likely that Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar will in a day or two meet the union leaders.

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.

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