Union leaders threaten to walk out, demand repeal of farm laws

NEW DELHI, 5 Dec: Seeking to break the deadlock over protests against the new farm laws, the government on Saturday told representatives of agitating farmers that their concerns are being looked into, but the union leaders stuck to their demand for repeal of the legislations and threatened to walk out of the talks.

The government side, however, managed to convince the farmer leaders to continue the talks, which began at 2:30 pm earlier in the day.

This is the fifth round of talks between the government and representatives of farmers, thousands of whom are protesting at various borders of the national capital against what they claim are the laws meant to end the mandi system and minimum support price procurement system to give for benefits of corporates.

While the government managed to convince them to continue with the talks, sources said some kind of division emerged among the participating farmer leaders on various issues proposed by the ministers.

Another source said the government also offered to take back cases filed against farmers for stubble burning, as also the cases filed against some farmer activists.

Later in the evening, the ministers began talking to smaller groups of 3-4 farmer leaders, out of the total 40 representatives present there.

At the beginning of the meeting at Vigyan Bhawan, union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar told the group of farmer unions that the government is committed to cordial talks and welcomed all positive feedback on the new farm laws, sources said.

Later, MoS for Commerce Som Parkash, an MP from Punjab, addressed the leaders in Punjabi and said the government understands the sentiments of Punjab.

“We are ready to address all your concerns with an open mind,” a source quoted Parkash as telling the union leaders.

The government side also included Railway, Commerce and Food Minister Piyush Goyal, besides senior officials.

Tomar, who is leading the talks for the Centre, said the government is committed to “peaceful talks with farmers’ leaders and does not intend to hurt farmers’ sentiments.”

The two sides are believed to have discussed contentious issues like provision of dispute resolution and registration of traders in proposed private mandis under the new laws. (PTI)