Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar on Thursday reiterated that the government is ready to resume talks with protesting farmers but first the unions should respond to its offer to put the three contentious farm laws on hold for one-and-a-half years and set up a joint committee to find solutions.
The government and unions have held 11 rounds of talks, the last being on January 22, to break the deadlock and end the farmers” protest. Talks have not resumed following widespread violence during a tractor rally by protesting farmers on January 26.
Thousands of farmers, mainly from Punjab, Haryana and western Uttar Pradesh, have been camping at Delhi”s borders for about three months in protest against the three laws that they say will end state procurement of crops at MSP.
“The government is fully sensitive towards farmers. We have held several rounds of talks (with unions). We proposed many amendments as well as keeping the farm reform Acts on hold for 1.5 years and setting up a joint panel to find solutions. But, they have not responded to our proposals,” Tomar said on the sidelines of an event here.
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Asked whether the government plans to improve its proposal, the minister said, “Farmers should first express their opinion, what they want.”
On ”mahapanchayats” being held in some states, Tomar said anyone can organise such an event in a democratic country.
The minister said the Supreme Court has put on hold the implementation of the three laws till further orders and set up a committee to find solutions. “We have full faith in the apex court.”
Tomar said the three-member panel is meeting various stakeholders and will submit its recommendation after broad consultations.
At the same time, the minister said, the government has been trying to resolve the issue and is ready to talk with the protesting unions and find solutions to end the stalemate.
Asked about Bharatiya Kisan Union President Naresh Tikait”s comment calling Defence Minister Rajnath Singh a “caged parrot”, Tomar said these types of remarks should not be made by anyone against senior political leaders.
Tikait had on Wednesday called Rajnath Singh a “caged parrot” and said the farmers’ issues could be resolved if he is given the freedom to talk with them.
Inaugurating a three-day Kisan Mela at IARI campus in the national capital, Tomar highlighted the benefits of the three laws.
He said farmers are being given freedom to sell their produce anywhere in the country at their price.
Tomar also said there will be no central or state tax if farmers sell their produce outside APMC mandis.
“What is wrong in these legislations?” he asked.
The minister wondered why some farm unions are protesting against the government which has ended the tax system and not against those who impose taxes.
Tomar said these three agri reform laws, along with other initiatives like setting up of FPOs, Rs 1 lakh crore farm infrastructure fund and PM-Kisan scheme, will boost farmers” income and spur growth of the agriculture sector.
The minister emphasised on the need for reduction in the cost of production and better price realisation to make agriculture profitable.
Minister of State for Agriculture Kailash Choudhary said, “India achieved independence in 1947, but farmers got freedom in 2020.”
He asserted that farmers” land will not be snatched under the contract farming law and said these legislations will be beneficial for the farming community.
Choudhary said the Modi government has been taking various initiatives in the farmers” interest.
Three union ministers, including Tomar and Food Minister Piyush Goyal, have so far held 11 rounds of talks with the protesting farmer unions.
In the last meeting on January 22, the government”s negotiations with 41 farmer groups hit a roadblock as the unions squarely rejected the Centre”s proposal of putting the laws on suspension.
During the 10th round of talks held on January 20, the Centre had offered to suspend the laws for 1-1.5 years and form a joint committee to find solutions, in return for protesting farmers going back to their respective homes from Delhi”s borders.
Farmer groups have alleged that these laws will end the mandi and MSP procurement systems and leave the farmers at the mercy of big corporates, even as the government has rejected these apprehensions as misplaced.
On January 11, the Supreme Court had stayed the implementation of the three laws till further orders and appointed a four-member panel to resolve the impasse. Bhartiya Kisan Union President Bhupinder Singh Mann had recused himself from the committee appointed by the apex court.
Shetkari Sanghatana (Maharashtra) President Anil Ghanwat and agriculture economists Pramod Kumar Joshi and Ashok Gulati, the other members on the panel, have started the consultation process with stakeholders.