Farmers protesting the controversial new farm laws have been given 24 hours to identify "specific issues" related to the Farm Reforms Acts ahead of a fourth round of talks with the central government, the Agriculture Ministry said Tuesday night after a meeting with reps from 32 farmers organisations.
"During the interaction, it has been suggested by the Government to the representatives of Farmers Union to identify specific issues related to Farm Reform Acts and share (these) with the Government for consideration. These issues will be discussed during the fourth round," a ministry statement said.
The fourth round of talks is scheduled for Thursday. Sources have said the government is unlikely to recall the laws, making it necessary for the two sides to reach a compromise of some sort.
A three-hour meeting today yielded no breakthrough, apart from protesters turning down the proposal to form a committee for further discussion.
"(It) is not the time for a committee," sources quoted the farmers' reps, who have now been protesting for nearly three months and made no secret of their primary demand - that the "black anti-farmer" laws be repealed.
At today's meeting, the Agriculture Ministry said, farmers were told the government is "committed to their welfare and always ready for a dialogue". A detailed presentation was made, the statement added, on what the government says are the benefits of the new laws.
Over the past few days thousands of farmers have marched on Delhi to protest what they say are "black" and "anti-farmer" laws. The farmers, who have been vilified as "Khalistanis and Maoists", braved lathi charges and tear gassing by police to reach the city borders on Friday morning.
They say the new laws will rob them of government-guaranteed prices for their crops and leave them (particularly small and marginal farmers) at the mercy of private corporations.
The centre, meanwhile, insists the laws are reformatory and will do away with middlemen, allowing farmers to sell their produce at markets and prices of their choice.
On November 13 representatives of Punjab farmers met Mr Tomar and his cabinet colleague Piyush Goyal and presented a list of demands, including the immediate scrapping of the farm laws.
The farmers who have been blockaded in and around Delhi have said they are ready for the long haul and have brought provisions to last them for months.
With input from PTI