The sixth round of talks between the centre and farmers protesting the agriculture laws “concluded on a very good note”, Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar said Wednesday evening, as he announced an “agreement” on two of four demands made by farmer leaders.
Mr Tomar said an amendment to the Electricity Bill would be withdrawn and that penal provisions for stubble burning would not be applicable to the farmers. However, both issues were seen as being already settled, with the centre having earlier said that it would accept these demands.
No progress was made on resolving the farmers’ core demands – the scrapping of the agriculture laws and a legal guarantee for MSP (minimum support price).
“There were four points on the agenda today, of which two have been agreed upon. Talks concluded on a very good note, which resulted in the formation of a healthy environment,” Mr Tomar told reporters after the meeting finished.
“Talks will resume at 2 pm on January 4 on the two outstanding issues,” he added, and made another appeal to the farmers to send “the elderly, women and children” home.
On the key issues – MSP and the rollback of the laws – Mr Tomar indicated the centre would not back down. The farmers were offered (as they were in earlier talks) a written assurance that MSP scheme will continue and amendments to problematic sections of the laws.
“The government has been saying MSP will continue. We are ready to give this in writing but farmers’ unions feel MSP should get legal status. So the discussion will continue on the legal aspect of MSP and other issues, ” the Agriculture Minister said.
Government sources told NDTV the centre also once again offered to form a committee to discuss the outstanding demands. The farmers were also told that the process of withdrawing laws is a long one – a statement many see as a veiled warning that the laws are here to stay.
“The government has been saying we should end our agitation and form a committee… but we won’t take back our movement and we won’t form a committee. We’ll discuss MSP in next meet,” Balkaran Singh Brar, President of the Punjab wing of the All India Kisan Sabha, told ANI.
The farmers say the new laws will leave them at the mercy of corporate interests and could lead to a loss of livelihood. The centre says the laws will eliminate middlemen and help farmers sell their produce at markets and prices of their choice.
With input from ANI