AGENCIES, New Delhi: Three Union ministers holding the sixth round of talks with protesting farm leaders on Wednesday rejected the demand to repeal the three agricultural laws cultivators say will hurt their livelihoods. The Centre, however, proposed to set up a committee to examine the new farm laws.
Union ministers Narendra Singh Tomar, Piyush Goyal and Som Prakash also discussed the possibility of law on guaranteeing minimum prices for farm prices, said a senior farmers’ representative present in the talks.
The ministers shared meals with farmers during a lunch break after the first round of talks, presenting a picture of bonhomie amid the tough negotiations.
In the first round of talks earlier on Wednesday, which was followed by a lunch break, the farmers raised their core issue of scrapping three recent pro-reform laws. Among their clutch of demands, farmers have also demanded a law to make federally fixed minimum prices, known as minimum support prices (MSP).
“The ministers didn’t say anything on this but said they wanted to discuss the demand for a law on MSP,” said Joginder Singh Ugrahan, the leader of a faction of the Bharatiya Kisan Union.
In the second round of talks, which were on at the time of filing this report, the government said a committee could be formed to scrutinize the three laws.
Union Ministers #NarendraSinghTomar (@nstomar), #PiyushGoyal (@PiyushGoyal), and @SomParkashBJP on Wednesday afternoon partook of food brought by #farmer leaders for lunch at the Vigyan Bhavan, where the sixth round of talks between the two sides was on. pic.twitter.com/8uLddhKmIl
— IANS Tweets (@ians_india) December 30, 2020
A government official also explained the pros and cons of the law on MSP. The government argued that a law making MSP compulsory for even private traders, essentially prohibiting the sale of any farm produce below state-set prices, could spark chaos in markets. Tomar said private traders may not buy at MSP rates if doing so wouldn’t be profitable for them.
The three farm laws passed in September essentially change the way India’s farmers do business by creating free markets, as opposed to a network of decades-old government marketplaces, allowing traders to stockpile essential commodities for future sales and laying down a national framework for contract farming.