Tomar suggests middle path, farmers unmoved

Vibha Sharma
Tribune News Service
New Delhi, December 5

The fifth round of talks between the Centre and farmer’ leaders today failed to break the impasse. The next meeting is scheduled for December 9, a day after the Bharat bandh.

Kavitha Kuruganti of the Mahila Kisan Adhikar Manch, one of the 40 unions invited for the talks with Union Ministers Narendra Singh Tomar, Piyush Goyal and Som Parkash on the contentious farm Acts, said: “The government sought some more time to present a concrete proposal. The ministers said they needed further consultations within the government and proposed December 9 for the next meeting, to which the union leaders agreed.” Most unions see this as yet another attempt to “stretch matters and buy time”.

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After the more than four-hour meeting, Tomar reportedly urged the farmers to put forth their suggestions. “The Modi government is committed to the welfare of farmers. Today, we held the fifth round of talks. We said the MSP would continue and if there were any doubts, the government was ready to dispel these. We also assured that the mandi system would be further strengthened,” he said, adding: “We wanted suggestions on some issues, but this did not happen.”

For more than 90 minutes, the farmers’ representatives remained mum as the Union Ministers kept pressing for the middle path, suggesting amendments, said Balbir Singh Rajewal of the BKU (Rajewal). They also rejected Tomar’s suggestion to send the elderly and children back home. They insisted that the three “black” laws be rolled back.

Minister of State for Commerce Som Parkash, who is from Punjab, tried to draw out some leaders by communicating in Punjabi. President of the Krantikari Kisan Union Darshan Pal said the ministers kept insisting on amendments. “They (ministers) said they would send a fresh proposal by Sunday evening. There was complete silence in the room for quite a while. Some union leaders even tried to leave,” a farmers’ representative said.

By deciding to hold the next meeting on December 9, sources say the government has ensured that the communication lines remain open till the “Bharat bandh” on December 8. Ahead of their meeting with the farmers, Tomar, Amit Shah and Rajnath Singh met the PM.

With the agitation now taking the shape of a ‘jan andolan’, the Opposition in Bihar and Tamil Nadu too has begun mounting pressure on the BJP. Farm leaders fear “attempts to malign the movement”. Apparently, Shah has approached several ‘jathebandis’, urging them to end the protest.

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