New Delhi: The eighth round of talks between the Centre and the farmer unions to end over-a-month-long agitation remained inconclusive here at Vigyan Bhawan on Friday (January 8). While the farmer leaders remained adamant on repealing the new agricultural laws, the government, however, ruled out the same reiterating that it was ready for the amendment. 

The next meeting has been now been fixed for January 15, amid indications that any headway will now depend on a Supreme Court hearing scheduled for January 11 on a batch of petitions related to the protest. This simply indicated that the Supreme Court’s direction would probably break the ongoing deadlock between the two sides. 

The four key points of Friday’s meeting are:

1. Farmer leaders appeared quite agitated in the meeting. They told Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar that the government does not want to resolve the matter, but was dragging it unnecessarily.

2. About 40-member representative groups of protesting farmer leaders attended the eighth round of negotiations. They were adamant about repealing the new agricultural laws, but the government ruled out their demand.

3. The government also stated that apart from repealing the new agri laws if farmers can come ahead with any other option, then that can be considered. The government is, therefore, ready for amendment, but has no intention to repeal the new laws. 

4. Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar expressed that it is better now that the Supreme Court should make a decision as he failed to find a solution coming forth, but the farmer leader opposed this.

In simple words, the government now wants that the Supreme Court should find a middle ground in this matter while the farmers want the government should take a final call as the three have been passed by the government. 

Briefing the media after the talks, Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar said no decision could be reached as the farmer leaders did not present alternatives to their demand for the repeal of the laws. He, however, expressed hope that the unions will come up with alternatives in the next meeting for the consideration of the government.

Asked whether there was any progress in talks beyond 50 per cent, Tomar said: “It is stuck at 50 per cent as of now.” When asked if the government is open to giving an option to states for implementing the laws, the Union minister said, “Farmers have not given any such proposal. But, the government has time and again said it will consider all alternative proposals.”

Indicating that the issue is already scheduled for hearing in the Supreme Court on January 11, Tomar said, “We are a democracy and when laws are passed in Parliament, the Supreme Court has the authority to analyse them. Everyone, including the government, is obviously committed to the apex court and its decisions. The government is always committed to any direction given by the Supreme Court.” 

On inviting the farmers to support the laws in the ninth round of talks, Tomar said there was no such plan as of now but it can be looked into in the future if required. Tomar also appealed to unions for discussions on the laws while keeping in mind the interest of farmers of the entire country.

It appears that the government wants the matter to be settled by the Supreme Court and that is why the next round of talks between the two sides has been kept on January 15. 

The farmer groups have decided to meet on January 11 to decide their next course of action, even as many leaders said they have lost hope now that any resolution could be reached even in the next round of negotiations.

Notably, farmers have been protesting at different borders of the national capital since November 26 against the three newly enacted farm laws – Farmers` Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020, the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020, and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020. 

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