Representatives of protesting farmers will focus on frauds committed by traders against farmers in Madhya Pradesh at a sixth round of talks with central ministers in progress now. The alleged fraud involved promised purchase of crops that never took place, leaving scores of farmers in Hoshangabad and Guna in the lurch.
In their counter-offer, the government has ruled out scrapping the laws but said it can set up a committee to discuss the farmers' issues, sources said.
The government is hoping for a breakthrough to resolve the protests that have been raging at the borders of Delhi since November-end. Ahead of the meeting, Union minister Som Prakash, who has been part of the three-member team conducting negotiations, said it would be "decisive" and the government wants the farmers to "celebrate New Year at their homes".
"We will discuss every issue including Minimum Support Price. I can say that we are open to talks with an open heart. They too should come with an open mind. The agitation will definitely end if they do that," the minister was quoted as saying by news agency ANI.
The farmers, who are sticking to their demands for the repeal of the Central laws, said they will highlight the cases in Madhya Pradesh where farmers entering contract farming deals with corporates have become victims of fraud.
"Ever since new agrarian reform laws have been enacted, the incidence of cheating with farmers has increased. Merchants have opened offices in villages, bought crops from farmers and then run away... They have not paid the farmers their crop amount," said Baldev Singh Sirsa, a farmer leader from Punjab.
Maharashtra farmer leader Sandeep Gidde Patil told NDTV that a corporate gave a cheque of Rs 2 crore to 22 farmers in Harda district on Madhya Pradesh, which bounced. When the farmers went to the local police station, they were told that they have to go to the office if the Sub-Divisional Magistrate.
The farmer leaders, he added, are going to submit details of around 200 such cases in different parts of the country that took place after the implementation of new farm laws.
"Five rounds of talks between farmers and the government have taken place. We don't think we will reach a solution even today. The three farm laws should be repealed," Sukhwinder Singh Sabra of Punjab's Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Committee was quoted as saying by news agency ANI.
The farmers have reiterated that they will accept nothing less than a repeal of the contentious farm laws, turning down the government's offer to amend the laws, a stance that led to the Centre's bitter complaints to the Supreme Court.
"The government was and is ready for negotiations," the Centre had told the top court earlier this month as it heard a batch of petitions on the protest. "The difficulty is the farmers' 'yes or no' approach. Different ministers talked to them, but they turned their chairs back and did not talk," the Centre had said.
The court had ordered that a special committee be formed, insisting that the Centre's negotiations have failed. "Your negotiation will again fail as they won't agree," the court had said, seeking names or farmer organizations party to the issue.
Agriculture minister Narendra Tomar -- who will be part of today's meeting along with cabinet colleague Piyush Goyal -- had earlier said that the government was hoping to end the impasse before the end of the year. The two ministers met Union Home Minister Amit Shah on Wednesday as today's meeting was announced.