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Eighth round of talks between farmers, Centre ends in deadlock

Both sides refused to stand back from their positions; next meeting on January 15

A delegate during the talks January 8, holds a placard which says in Gurmukhi: We will die or we will win. Photo: @ManuManjit1 / Twitter

The eighth round of talks between farmer leaders and the Centre at Vigyan Bhawan in the national capital over the contentious farm laws ended without any breakthrough January 8, 2020, the leaders told media. The next meeting is scheduled for January 15.

The agenda of the January 8 meeting was to discuss the two foremost demands of the farmers: Discussing modalities of repealing the laws and providing a legal guarantee on minimum support price. 

Farmer leaders who attended the three-hour-long meeting said there was no progress in the talks, let alone a decision, as both parties stuck to their position.

The tone of the meeting was also different this time as there were spurts of heated discussions between both parties. The farmers raised slogans of ‘do or die’ during the meeting. 

The government reiterated the need for a clause-by-clause discussion of the laws. The farmer representatives, on the other hand, remained firm on their demand of a total rollback of the three laws. 

However, Union Minister for Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare, Narendra Singh Tomar said the laws could not be repealed as several farmers were in support of them. 

“They kept repeating the same old things that we have heard in previous meetings. But we also told the government that our ghar wapsi (return home) can take place only after law wapsi (repeal of laws),” a farmer leader said after the talks. 

Gurnam Singh Chadhuni, who heads the Haryana faction of the Bhartiya Kisan Union (BKU), suggested that while farmers were not hopeful about the meetings anymore, they would not break off the talks.

“I do not have hope for the next meeting. The government is repeating the same things and not listening to us. But farmers will not be the first to break off. We will not be responsible for the breakdown of talks. That is why we will come back on January 15,” he said. 

On the other hand, Tomar said the government had urged that if farmer unions gave an option other than repealing, the government would consider it. 

“But no option could be presented. So the meeting concluded and it was decided to hold the next meeting January 15,” he said. 

Farmer leaders added the government had also talked about the scheduled hearing on the protests and legality of the laws in the Supreme Court January 11.

“We replied that we are dealing directly with the government; why then should we go to the court,” Hannan Mollah, general secretary, All India Kisan Sabha, said.

However, Tomar said that the government only meant that “in our democracy, the Supreme Court has every right to examine the laws passed by Parliament which makes the laws.” 

“There is a hearing January 11 and whatever decision the court gives, the government is committed to following it,” he said. 

Farmer leaders said the court should just look at the constitutional validity of the laws. “It is a sad day for democracy when an elected government in the middle of the talks resorts to the Supreme Court and says that we should fall back on the court,” Kavitha Kuruganti of the Alliance for Sustainable and Holistic Agriculture (ASHA), said.

There is also a growing feeling among farmers that the government is trying to exhaust them by setting one meeting date after another. 

“They (government) might be thinking that it is a peaceful protest and things are going fine so let us call one meeting after the other and tire the protesting farmers. But we are not moving anywhere till our demands are met. This protest will be long. And we will also continue to meet the government when they call us,” Rakesh Tikait, BKU spokesperson told Down To Earth.

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