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Centre postpones Tuesday’s meeting with farmer unions to January 20

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The government on Monday postponed the tenth round of talks on the new agriculture laws with farmer unions to January 20, PTI reported. The meeting was earlier scheduled to take place at 12 pm on Tuesday at Delhi’s Vigyan Bhawan.

The previous nine rounds of talks between the government and farmers have failed to yield any concrete results, as the farmer unions have stuck to their main demand for repealing the new laws, while the government has refused to do so and insisted on a clause-wise discussion of the legislations.

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court-appointed panel formed with the mandate to resolve the deadlock will hold its first meeting on Tuesday, according to PTI.

Earlier on Monday, Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar said the stalemate on the matter continued because the farmer unions were not willing to discuss provisions in the legislations that they were opposed to.

“We are willing to discuss the issues concerning the three laws with an open mind, but they [farmer unions] are not discussing the provisions that are problematic, and therefore the stalemate continues,” Tomar told reporters in Madhya Pradesh’s Gwalior city.

The minister said that Centre was ready for talks and for making amendments to provisions, adding that he was hopeful of a resolution of the matter between the two sides.

On being asked about the Congress staging a protest on agriculture laws in his Lok Sabha constituency of Morena in Madhya Pradesh, Tomar blamed the party for the plight of farmers. He also claimed that Congress had promised the agriculture reforms, brought about by the new laws, in its manifesto for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

“The Congress should first go before the media to announce roll back of its promises mentioned in the poll manifesto,” he said. “Once the Congress does so, then only it will have the right to talk on these farm laws.”

On the matter of the tractor rally announced by farmers on January 26, Tomar said that he hoped the protestors will not do anything to hurt the tradition of Republic Day, PTI reported. Farmers have decided to hold the rally during Republic Day celebrations, if the government does not repeal the new laws.

Meanwhile, Minister of State for Agriculture Parshottam Rupala told PTI that a solution could have been reached had farmers spoken to the government directly and not through unions.

“It is different when farmers talk to us directly,” he said. “When leaders get involved, then it becomes difficult. Since people of different ideologies have entered into the protest, they want a solution in their own way. Both sides want a solution, but they have different points of view and hence it is taking more time.”

On the other hand, Rakesh Tikait, spokesperson of the Bharatiya Kisan Union, said that the farmer bodies were not hopeful of a resolution in Tuesday’s meeting but they were prepared to continue with the protest, ANI reported.

“We know that it [resolution of farmers’ protest] would not happen tomorrow,” he said. “It might drag further for a month or two.”

Farm laws

Tens of thousands of farmers have been camping out on the outskirts of Delhi for nearly two months, with at least nine rounds of talks between the government and farmers’ groups failing to resolve the deadlock.

Farmers’ around-the-clock sit-ins in cold weather have already led to some deaths among them. The farmers believe that the new laws undermine their livelihood and open the path for the corporate sector to dominate agricultural.

The government, on the other hand, maintains that the new laws will give farmers more options in selling their produce, lead to better pricing, and free them from unfair monopolies. The law passed in September are meant to overhaul antiquated procurement procedures and open up the market, the government has claimed.

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