Impasse: Government says no to repeal of laws, farmers firm

By: |
January 9, 2021 5:30 AM

On Thursday, thousands of farmers held tractor-marches from Singhu, Tikri and Ghazipur borders, intensifying their agitation against the three laws governing agriculture production and marketing.

While farmer leaders claimed that the government asked them to approach the court, Tomar denied making any such request.While farmer leaders claimed that the government asked them to approach the court, Tomar denied making any such request.

The government on Friday appeared biding time before revealing its resolution formula to the protesting farmers, given that the Supreme Court may look into the legality of the three contentious farm laws as it hears the matter on January 11.

After the eighth round of talks with the farmer unions on Friday, agriculture minister Narendra Singh Tomar told the media that the government was open to considering suggestions from the farmers for a resolution, other than repeal of the laws.

Asked whether the government would consider making the controversial laws optional for the states to implement to break the stalemate, Tomar said suggestions needed to come from the farmers.

On their part, farmer leaders stuck to their demand that the laws be completely withdrawn and insisted that their ‘ghar wapsi’ from the borders of the national capital is contingent on the abrogation of the laws. Farmer leaders who FE spoke to were also not enthusiastic about a court-mediated resolution to the issue, and stated that the solution must come from the government in its capacity as the policymaker.

Both sides agreed to meet again on January 15.

While farmer leaders claimed that the government asked them to approach the court, Tomar denied making any such request.

“We will not go to the court and the government has to withdraw its anti-farmer laws,” said Hannan Mollah, general secretary of All India Kisan Sabha, an affiliate of CPI(M). Mollah also said farmer leaders will discuss their next course of action on January 11. Another farmer leader Shiv Kumar Sharma said the government informed them that it would request the apex court to decide on the constitutional validity of the laws through regular hearings.

On Wednesday, the SC agreed to hear the petitions challenging the farm laws and the on-going protest on January 11 after Attorney General KK Venugopal informed the court that, “there are chances of the parties coming to some sort of an understanding”. The top court in December had suggested that a committee be formed to break the deadlock over the talks, but before passing any order it wanted to hear some of the farmer leaders.

For the first time, Tomar is learnt to have categorically told the farmer leaders on Friday that “the laws cannot and will not be repealed”. He told the media: “No decision could be taken today. Government kept requesting farmers to suggest alternatives other than repeal as it is ready to consider such alternative if farmer unions suggest. Despite a prolonged discussion, no alternative could be worked out.”

A day before the talks, the government floated an idea of making implementation of the farm laws optional for the states to end the six-week long protests. Baba Lakha Singh, a priest of Nanaksar Gurdwara of Punjab met Tomar on Thursday and discussed the proposal.

On Thursday, thousands of farmers held tractor-marches from Singhu, Tikri and Ghazipur borders, intensifying their agitation against the three laws governing agriculture production and marketing.

PTI reported: Around one hour after (Thursday’s meeting started), the three ministers (Tomar, railway and commerce minister Piyush Goyal, minister of state for commerce Som Prakash) 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, a source said.

Before the start of the meeting, Tomar had also met senior BJP leader and home minister Amit Shah for about an hour. Later, Haryana chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar also met Shah.

On January 4, the seventh round of talks had ended inconclusively as the unions stuck to their demand for a complete repeal of three farm laws, while the government wanted to discuss only the ‘problematic’ clauses or other alternatives to end the stalemate. Before that, in the sixth round of talks held on December 30 last year, some common ground was reached on two demands — decriminalisation of stubble-burning and continuation of power subsidies.

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