- Two rounds of talks this week have fallen through
- This is the biggest farmers' protest in years
- A nationwide shutdown has been called by farmers on Tuesday
Here are 10 developments in this big story:
Over four hours into Saturday's meeting irate farmers' reps underlined their rising discontent over a lack of progress by going on a brief silent protest and refusing to engage with the centre; they held up placards that said "Yes Or No?". The (unasked but implicit) question was "Will the centre scrap the farm laws?" Earlier they also threatened to walk out over "meaningless" discussions, but were persuaded to return to their seats. And, for a second straight day, farmer leaders declined the centre's offer of lunch and sat down on the floor to eat packed food.
"Today different issues were discussed. We wanted a fair solution but it couldn't hapen during today's talks. There will be another meeting on December 9. We have told the farmers that the government will discuss all issues. We will try to find a solution," Mr Tomar said after the meeting.
"If we would have got some solutions from the farmer leaders it would have been easier. We will still wait for that," he added. Mr Tomar also urged farmer leaders to send their elderly and children - many of whom are among thousands camped out around the national capital in protest - back home citing winter and the Covid pandemic.
"We have said that MSP (minimum support price) will continue. There is no threat to this scheme and it is baseless to doubt (that it will be scrapped)," the Agriculture Minister said, reiterating the centre's assurances on this score. The farmers have said the new laws will do away with MSPs - a guarantee of sale of crops and prices. "We don't intend to affect mandi (wholesale markets) in the states, they are not affected by the law either," he added.
Saturday's talks - the third this week and fifth overall - began after a high-level meet between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and senior cabinet ministers, including Home Minister Amit Shah. Sources said PM Modi, who defended his government's laws at a public event in UP's Varanasi on Sunday, was briefed about the protest and the status of negotiations.
On Friday around 40 farmer leaders gathered at the Delhi-Haryana border to chalk out their strategy after a seven-hour meeting the day before failed to break the deadlock. In (one of several) scenes that has defined this protest, the farmers turned down the government's offer of lunch or tea; stirring images showed some of them sitting on the floor and eating packed food.
At Thursday's talks farmers' reps made a 39-point presentation on the farm laws' inadequacies, refusing piecemeal changes and demanding written assurances on extending the MSP scheme. Over the course of a protest that began in September the farmers have repeatedly expressed concern over laws they say will leave them at the mercy of private firms. The centre offered to amend the laws and give farmers more legal rights, but stopped short of repealing the legislations.
Increasingly angry farmers have called for the protest to intensify. An all-India strike has been scheduled for Tuesday and farmers camped out around the national capital have warned they will block all roads leading to the city and occupy highways across the country in an attempt to increase pressure on the centre. A top traders' body has backed this call.
A petition has been moved in the Supreme Court asking that farmers around Delhi be removed because they are blocking emergency medical services. Filed by a local resident, the petition cites a top court order from September that said protesters cannot occupy public places indefinitely. That order was in the context of protest in Delhi's Shaheen Bagh over the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA).
At least three deaths have been recorded during the protests. The farmers have told the centre it would be "inhuman" - given the cold weather - to drag this out any further. On Thursday Punjab announced financial assistance of Rs 5 lakh each to the families of two of farmers from the state who died during the protests.