In the first indications to address the grievances of the protesting farmers, members of the Centre and farmers reached a decision on two problems on Wednesday: the increase in power tariffs and fines for stubble burning. The conference, which lasted more than five hours, did not, however, break the deadlock on the key controversial issues of the repeal of the three agricultural laws and the legal assurance of the minimum support price (MSP).
This would be the sixth round of talks after a three-week hiatus between the members of over 40 farmers’ organizations and the central government. Following the discussions, Union Minister of Agriculture Narendra Singh Tomar, supported by Minister of Food and Railways Piyush Goyal and Minister of State for Commerce Som Parkash, announced that the two sides had reached an agreement on two problems.
Discussing the mentioned two problems, Tomar said, “The first issue was an ordinance related to the environment. Unions were apprehensive about farmers being included along with Parali (stubble) ones. Both sides agreed to farmers’ exclusion.”
“Farmers feel that if reform is introduced in the Electricity Act, they’ll suffer loss. Unions wanted the electricity subsidy given to farmers by states for irrigation should continue. The consensus was reached on this issue also,” he added.
Next January 4, Tomar said, the government will meet farmers’ representatives, emphasizing that talks on the three farm laws and MSP will begin in the next round of talks. He also told that the talks were held in a cordial atmosphere and, given the cold winter months, he asked the farmers’ leaders to send home the aged, women, and children.
The minister said the union leaders continued to insist on repealing the three farm laws, however, the government side attempted to explain the benefits of the Acts to them and seeks to explain the farmers’ particular problems. He also retained his stance on funding for the MSP, saying that the government has already said it is ready to offer a written guarantee.
Following the conference, Farmers Union leader Kalwant Singh Sandhu said the talks on Wednesday. It is focused mainly on electricity and stubble burning, while the next meeting on January 4 will concentrate on the assurance of the MSP and the three farm laws.
However, some union leaders further said farmers are forced to sell crops in some regions of the country, including paddy below the MSP, as market prices have dropped and proclaimed that protest will continue until their demands are accepted by the authorities.