Deadlock finally broken, Farmers-govt reach consensus on two issues

Chennai: The government and farm unions reached some common ground on Wednesday to resolve protesting farmers’ concerns over rise in power tariff and penalties for stubble burning, but the two sides remained deadlocked over the main contentious issues of the repeal of three farm laws and a legal guarantee for MSP.

After nearly five hours of the sixth round of negotiations between three union ministers and a 41-member representative group of thousands of farmers protesting on Delhi borders, Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar said at least 50 per cent resolution has been reached with mutual agreement on two out of four items on the agenda and discussions would continue on the remaining two on 4 January at 2 pm.

He also hoped that the new year will herald new solutions and asserted that the Modi government has always been sensitive to farmers’ issues.

“Discussions on the three farm laws and MSP are not complete and will continue in the next round of talks… We are hopeful that consensus would be reached for resolving the two remaining issues also,” Tomar said.

While the three ministers joined the farmer leaders to share their langar (community kitchen) food during the lunch break, the union representatives accepted the beverage offered by the government during the evening tea break.

Farmer leaders said the government agreed to their demands for dropping the penal provisions against farmers in an ordinance relating to stubble burning and to put on hold a proposed electricity amendment law.

However, there was no concrete movement on their main demands for repeal of the three farm laws and a legal guarantee for MSP, union leaders said.

The unions, however, have decided to postpone their proposed tractor rally, earlier scheduled for Thursday, till the next round of talks on 4 January.

Tomar said talks were held in a cordial atmosphere and the two sides reached an agreement on two issues — one relating to the proposed electricity law and the other about an ordinance on penal provisions for stubble burning.

He hailed the unions for maintaining peace and discipline during their protest but urged them to send the elderly, women and children back to their homes due to the extreme cold weather.

Tomar said the union leaders kept insisting on the repeal of the three farm laws, but the government side tried to explain to them the benefits of the Acts and sought to know specific problems faced by the farmers.

On farmers’ demand for a legal guarantee for procurement at Minimum Support Price (MSP), the minister said the government has already said that it is ready to give a written assurance.

Later, an official statement said the government offered to set up two committees- one to ensure parity between the MSP and the market price and the other on finding alternatives to the farmers’ demand for the repeal of the three laws while upholding the constitutional values.