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Farm talks fail; all eyes on SC

Lohri, Baisakhi at Delhi borders as next discussion on Jan 15; SC ruling on Jan 11

The eighth round of talks between farmers unions and the Government ended without any breakthrough on Friday. The talks lasted for over two and a half hours.

Sticking to their key demand of the repeal of three farm laws, the farmer leaders told the Ministers that their “ghar wapsi” from protest sites along Delhi borders can happen only after “law wapsi”. But the Centre insisted the talks must be limited to contentious clauses and ruled out a complete withdrawal of Acts.

The next round of talks will be held on January 15 meaning that the farmers will be celebrating Lohri and Makarsankranti at the Delhi borders. Now all eyes are on the Supreme Court which take up the issue on January 11.

According to sources, the next date has been decided after keeping in mind a scheduled hearing of the Supreme Court on January 11 as the Government feels the apex court may look into the legality of the three laws, besides other issues related to farmers’ protests. Farmer leader Darshan Pal said farmers would not vacate the protest sites even if the Supreme Court tells them to do so.

The discussion between the farmers and the Centre reached stalemate as union leaders decided to observe silence while holding out papers with slogans including “Jeetenge ya Marenge” (We will either win or die).

The union leaders refused to take a lunch break and stayed put in the meeting room. The situation came to this point after the Union Agriculture Minister reportedly told the farmer leaders that he will not consider repealing the three contentious laws.

The union leaders told the Ministers that the Centre should not interfere in agriculture matters as various SC orders have declared farming as a State subject.

After the meeting, Tomar said no decision could be reached as unions did not give alternatives to their demand for the repeal of laws. Tomar said the Government is still hopeful that union leaders will come with alternatives to discuss in the next round of talks on January 15.

On whether the Government made a proposal to farmers to join a pending case in the Supreme Court on issues related to farmers’ protest, Tomar said the Government did not make any such suggestion but it is always committed to follow whatever is decided by the SC.

Asked whether the Government would consider any proposal for allowing States to decide whether to implement the laws or not, the Minister said no such proposal was made by any farmer leader in this regard, but if such a suggestion is made the Government will take a call at that time.

After the meeting, union leader Joginder Singh Ugrahan said the meeting was inconclusive and it was unlikely that any resolution could happen in the next round of talks. “We do not want anything less than the repeal of laws… Government is testing our strength, but we will not bow down. It seems we will have to spend Lohri and Baisakhi festivals here at protest sites,” he said.

Another union leader Hannan Mollah said farmers are ready to fight till death and going to court was not an option. “There was a heated discussion, we said we don’t want anything other than the repeal of laws. We won’t go to any court, this (repeal) will either be done or we’ll continue to fight. Our parade on January 26 will go on as planned,” he said.

Jai Kisan Andolan union leader Ravinder Kaur was seen crying after the meeting and said many mothers have lost their sons and many daughters have lost their fathers.

Besides Tomar, Commerce and Food Minister Piyush Goyal and Minister of State for Commerce Som Parkash, who is an MP from Punjab, have been holding talks with unions at Vigyan Bhawan.

Around one hour after the meeting, the three Ministers stepped out of the discussion hall for their own internal consultations, after union leaders decided to observe silence while holding out papers with slogans including ‘Jeetenge ya Marenge’ (We will either win or die).

The union leaders, however, refused to take a lunch break and stayed put in the meeting room. Before the start of the meeting, Tomar had also met senior BJP leader and Home Minister Amit Shah for about an hour. Separately, Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar also met Shah.

Saturday, 09 January 2021 | Rajesh Kumar | New Delhi

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