A day before their eleventh round of talks with the government, protesting unions leaders held a marathon meeting to discuss the Centre's proposal to suspend the three contentious farm laws for 18 months and set up a joint committee to find an amicable solution in the interest of the farming community.
Sankyukt Kisan Morcha, an umbrella body of farm unions leading protests at several Delhi border points, held discussion over the government's latest offer at the Singhu border.
Meanwhile, the Supreme Court-appointed panel on the new agri laws started its consultation process on Thursday and interacted with 10 farmer organisations from eight states, including Uttar Pradesh.
'Repeal the laws and legally authorise MSP'
A farmer leader said that the Morcha started its meeting around 2.30 pm on Thursday which lasted till late evening.
In the meet, the unions rejected the government's proposal to suspend three farm laws for 18 months, and said they want nothing but a complete repeal of all these contentious legislations.
"In a full general body meeting of the Samyukt Kisan Morcha today, the proposal put forth by the government yesterday, was rejected. A full repeal of three central farm acts and enacting a legislation for remunerative MSP for all farmers were reiterated as the pending demands of the movement," Samkyukt Kisan Morcha, an umbrella body of protesting unions, said in a statement.
The government, during their tenth round of negotiation with the agitating farmer leaders on Wednesday, proposed to suspend the three farm laws for 1-1.5 years and set up a joint committee to find an amicable solution in the interest of the farming community.
The two sides had also decided to meet again on Friday after the union leaders told the three Central government ministers that they will hold their own internal consultations on Thursday to decide on the Centre's new proposal.
During the internal meeting, which lasted for over four hours, the farmers also asserted that they "will not go back to their homes until their demand to repeal the three contentious farm laws is accepted by the government".
However, Jagjit Singh Dalewal of Bharatiya Kisan Union (Sindhupur), one of the 41 union leaders participating in the negotiations with the government, said a final decision is yet to be taken on the government's proposal and various union leaders were still discussing the matter. While several other farmer leaders said consultations are over and a final decision has been taken to reject the government's proposal, indicating that the deadlock over the contentious farm laws may continue.
Agriculture minister meets Amit Shah ahead of 11th round of talks with farmers
A day before the government's crucial 11th round of talks with protesting farmers, Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar on Thursday night met senior BJP leader and Home Minister Amit Shah, sources said.
Tomar has been leading the government side in the negotiations along with Railways, Commerce and Food Minister Piyush Goyal and Minister of State for Commerce Som Parkash, who is an MP from Punjab.
SC-appointed panel begins consultation
The apex court had on 11 January stayed the implementation of the three laws, against which farmers are protesting at Delhi borders for nearly two months now, till further orders and appointed a four-member panel to resolve the impasse.
Currently, there are three members in the panel as the fourth, Bhartiya Kisan Union president Bhupinder Singh Mann, has recused himself from the committee. The panel, in a statement, said that the interaction was held through video conference with various farmer unions and associations on Thursday.
Ten farmer organisations from Karnataka, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Maharasthra, Odisha, Telangana, Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh participated in discussions with committee members, it said.
"The farmers' unions participated in the discussion and gave their frank opinion including suggestions to improve the implementation of Acts," the statement said.
The participating farmer bodies were asked to give their views on 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.
President of Maharasthra-based Shetkari Sanghatana Anil Ghanwat and agri-economists Ashok Gulati and Pramod Kumar Joshi are the three members of the panel.
'Agitation caused loss of Rs 50,000 cr'
Traders' body CAIT on Thursday said the ongoing farmers' agitation in Delhi-NCR has caused a business loss of nearly Rs 50,000 crore.
Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT) secretary-general Praveen Khandelwal said the government's fresh proposal to keep farm laws in abeyance for one-and-a-half years and constitute a joint committee with farmer leaders "is quite justified and reasonable which indicates its willingness to resolve the crisis".
Khandelwal said that therefore, now, the farmers should accept this proposal in the larger interest of farming community and those engaged in agriculture trade, and call off their agitation.
If farmers still do not accept the proposal of the government, it will be construed that they are not interested in solution but certain divisive forces are more willing to create problems, he added.
Khandelwal appealed to the government that traders should also be given representation in proposed joint committee.
"If any agreement is achieved without taking the traders into confidence, the farm (law) issue will remain in controversy and all exercise of the government may prove to be futile.
"We look for a comprehensive solution of the contentious issue, and legitimate interest of all stakeholders needs to be protected," he said.
Farmers reject police's suggestion to move tractor rally
Talks between farmer leaders and Delhi Police ended without a breakthrough as farmers rejected the police's suggestion that the tractor rally scheduled for Republic Day out of Delhi.
Swaraj Abhiyan leader Yogendra Yadav said that police officers wanted farmer leaders to take out their tractor rally outside the National Capital, which is "not possible."
"We will carry out our parade peacefully inside Delhi. They wanted us to hold tractor rally outside Delhi, which is not possible," said Yadav, who is actively participating in the ongoing agitation against the three farm laws.
Sources said that police officers tried to convince protesting farm unions to hold their tractor rally on the Kundli-Manesar-Palwal (KMP) Expressway instead of the Outer Ring Road.
The Supreme Court, hearing the Centre's plea seeking a direction to halt the tractor rally, on Wednesday refused to interfere in the matter. The Centre then withdrew its plea seeking an injunction against such a march on 26 January.
The apex court said that the issue of the tractor rally is in the executive domain. A bench headed by Chief Justice SA Bobde said that police has the "authority" to deal with the issue of proposed tractor march in Delhi and it is not for the court to pass an order in the matter.
"We have told you that we will not issue any direction. It is a police matter. We will allow you to withdraw (the application). You are the authority and you have to deal with it. You have the powers to pass orders, you do it. It is not for the court to pass orders," said the bench, also comprising justices AS Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian.
Enacted in September, the three laws have been projected by the Centre as major reforms in the agriculture sector that will remove middlemen and allow farmers to sell their produce anywhere in the country.
However, the protesting farmers have expressed their apprehension that the new laws would pave the way for eliminating the safety cushion of MSP (minimum support price) and do away with the "mandi" (wholesale market) system, leaving them at the mercy of big corporates.