11th round of talks fails; farmers threaten to intensify protests

News Desk: Marking failure in negotiations, the 11th round of talks between farm union leaders and the government ended in a standoff again on Friday as the farmers hardened their stand seeking repeal of three contentious farm laws.

The rift widened in the Friday’s talks as the farmers sought a complete repeal of three farm laws and a legal guarantee for MSP, even as the Centre asked them to reconsider its proposal for putting the Acts on hold for 12-18 months.

The government also showed a stern stance and said the next round of talks will only take place if farm union representatives accept the proposal of stalling the implementation of farm laws for two years.

“During the meeting, the government offered to put the implementation of the farm laws on hold for two years and said that the next round of meeting can take place only if farmer unions are ready to accept the proposal,” Rakesh Tikait, spokesperson of Bhartiya Kisan Union (BKU) told.

The government’s approach was not right during the meeting, farm leaders were saying.

Union agriculture minister Narendra Singh Tomar said that the welfare of farmers was not at the heart of talks from the farm leaders’ side. “We asked them to reconsider our proposal (of halting implementation of laws for two years) as it is in the interest of farmers and the country. We asked them to convey their decision tomorrow,” Tomar told.

“The talks remained inconclusive as farmers’ welfare was not at the heart of talks from the unions’ side. I am sad about it,” Tomar said. The government has also sought alternatives, Tomar said.

To the government’s displeasure, the farmers reiterated their plan to carry out a Tractor Rally on Republic Day, before the talks began on Friday.

Krantikari Kisan Union chief Darshan Pal on Thursday re-emphasized that the rally will take place only on the Outer Ring Road in Delhi, adding that the leaders will hold another meeting with the police after 11th round of talks with the government

The rally in the national capital will run at the same time as Republic Day celebrations on January 26.

“Govt has said tractor parade on Republic Day can’t be conducted on Delhi’s Outer Ring Road, due to security reasons. We’re clear that we will conduct tractor parade there only. After tomorrow’s meeting with Centre, we’ll hold another meeting with police,” Pal said.

While the meeting lasted for almost five hours, the two sides sat face to face for less than 30 minutes. In the very beginning, the farmer leaders informed the government that they have decided to reject the proposal made by the government in the last round of talks on Wednesday, reported.

Coming out of the meeting venue, farmer leader Shiv Kumar Kakka said there was no headway in the discussions and the government asked unions to deliberate on its proposal again.

The farmers have been camping out at several entry points to the capital New Delhi since late November in protest against the legislation that they say will hurt farm incomes and leave them vulnerable to big corporations. The government has defended the laws, saying the reforms will make agriculture competitive and bring prosperity to farmers.

These laws are the 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.

The farmers claim these laws will benefit big corporate houses. The government has, however, tried to allay these fears and even said that it is ready to discuss changes to the law. The government has made it clear that it won’t scrap these laws.