Govt says ready to discuss proposals; Unions threaten to intensify stir

NEW DELHI, 10 Dec: Virtually ruling out repealing of the new farm laws, the government on Thursday asked farmer groups to consider its proposals for amending the acts to address their concerns and said it is open to discussing its offer further whenever the unions want, but protesters remained defiant and threatened to block railway tracks too in addition to highways.

As the issue remained deadlocked with both sides sticking to their respective positions, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, while laying the foundation stone for a new parliament building, invoked Guru Nanak to underscore the importance of dialogue and noted that the Sikh guru had said that interaction should continue till eternity.

A day after protesting farmers rejected the government’s offer for a written assurance on minimum support price (MSP) and amend few provisions in the new farm laws, Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar said at a press conference that union leaders must consider the proposals and said he is ready for further discussions with them, but left it to the farmer groups to propose a date for the next round of talks.

When asked whether the government would consider a new bill on the MSP system, Tomar said the new laws do not impact the MSP system and that will continue.

At least five rounds of formal talks have taken place between the central government and representatives of thousands of farmers, mainly from Punjab and Haryana, protesting on various borders of the national capital for about two weeks, but the deadlock has continued with the unions sticking to their main demand for the repeal of the three contentious laws and repeatedly rejecting the Centre’s offer to make some changes in law and give written assurances or clarifications on few issues such as MSP and mandi systems.

After the press conference of the ministers, farmer leaders on Thursday threatened to block railway tracks also if the government does not repeal the three laws, which they claim were aimed at benefitting corporates by weakening the mandi system and the MSP regime for procurement of farm produce. (PTI)