Farmers' Protest: The two sides have agreed to meet again on January 8.
- Deadlock over the repeal of the contentious farm laws persisted Monday
- Centre, farmers unable to get on same page in seventh round of talks
- The two sides have agreed to meet again on January 8
The deadlock over the repeal of the contentious farm laws persisted, with the Centre and the farmers unable to get on the same page in the seventh round of discussions. Sources said the government had proposed to discuss the farmers' demand for a legal guarantee for support price of crops, but the farmers' union leaders insisted on discussing the repeal of farm laws. The two sides have agreed to meet again on January 8. The farmers have threatened to hold a rally on Republic Day, January 26, if their demands are not met.
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Agriculture minister Narendra Tomar "clearly said that the laws will not be repealed, he even told us to approach the Supreme Court for repeal of the laws," said Sarwan Singh Pandher of the Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Committee, who attended the meet. "We urge the youth of Punjab to prepare for a long haul. We will take out a big procession on Republic Day," he added.
Union Minister Narendra Tomar said the laws will be discussed with representatives of farmers' organisations from other states. "We will discuss these three laws point-by-point and we are ready to make amendments as necessary after considering the points on which you have objections," the agriculture ministry quoted him as saying.
The two sides took a long break after just an hour of discussions, during which the farmers had langar (community kitchen) food brought in from outside by a van, as they have been doing.
Instead of joining them like the last time, Mr Tomar, Commerce and Industry minister Piyush Goyal and his junior minister Som Prakash were seen having a separate discussion during the break, which lasted for almost two hours.
The meeting had started with a two-minute silence for the protesting farmers who have died during the agitation, the agriculture ministry said. More than 60 farmers camping at the Delhi border have died, many of them could not survive the extreme weather conditions. "One farmer is dying every 16 hours. It is the responsibility of the government to answer," farmer leader Rakesh Tikait has said.
The farmers have been camping at the borders of Delhi since November 26, staying in their converted tractors in the bitter cold. Even the current spell of heavy rains, which has turned their campsite into a sea of mud, has not been able to deter them.
In the last round of meeting on December 30, the Centre said the two sides came to an understanding on two of the four demands of the farmers -- withdrawal of the Electricity Amendment Bill and the penal provisions for stubble burning in the Air Quality Commission Ordinance.
Last month, the Supreme Court had ordered that a special committee be formed, insisting that the Centre's negotiations have failed. "Your negotiation will again fail as they (the farmers) won't agree," said the bench led by Chief Justice of India SA Bobde.
In Punjab, Reliance Jio went to court, seeking government intervention as no arrest was made for the destruction of hundreds of its cellphone towers, allegedly by protesting farmers. Jio owner Mukesh Ambani is seen as one of the major beneficiaries of the farm laws. The farmers have accused the government of working for the benefit of corporates at their expense.
The farmers are adamant that they will not accept anything less than a repeal of the laws. They also want a law that guarantees the Minimum Support Price. The government, which says the laws will benefit farmers by removing middlemen and enable them to sell crops anywhere in the country, has blamed the opposition for the protests, saying they are inciting farmers.