There was another round of hectic parleys between farmers' leaders and the BJP-led Central government at the Vigyan Bhawan in New Delhi on Saturday.
An image-conscious Prime Minister Narendra Modi stepped in to yield to some of the demands of the farmers protesting at Delhi's borders for the 10th day, but there was no headway. The farmers' unions stuck to their demand. They want the government to roll back the three contentious farm laws.
While the government sought for some time. The angry farmers have called for a Bharat Bandh on December 8. The two sides have however agreed to meet again on December 9 for another round of talks.
The farmers have threatened to intensify their agitation and block more roads if the government does not give in to their demands. “The PM was equally concerned over the call for a "Bharat Bandh" on December 8 by the farmers and 10 central trade unions, who had called a strike on November 26 in their support,” said sources from the PMO.
The fifth round of talks on Saturday collapsed as the farmers refused further dialogue and resorted to a silent protest at the meeting in the Vigyan Bhawan.
Much to their chagrin, Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar himself staged a walkout in the second round after a break, making it clear that the farm laws will not be repealed irrespective of the protests. He bluntly told the farmers that he finds no use for further talks with them after they accused him of promoting corporate farming. His walkout is, however, no end of talks as the officials immediately announced that the next round of talks will take place on Monday as the government cannot allow the national capital to be put to ransom as witnessed over the past 10 days.
Farmers, however, disagreed to the date and so both sides agreed to meet only on December 9. The government promised to present a detailed acceptance of the amendments in the farm laws that it can allow in the next round after holding internal discussions.
The irate farmers asserted that they have material with them to last a year. The trigger came at the meeting when a farmer leader said: “If the government wants us to stay on roads, we have no problems. We won't take path of non-violence but not allow the laws to ruin us.” Another leader said all entry points to Delhi shall be blocked from Monday.
A high-level meeting at the PM's residence attended among others by Home Minister Amit Shah, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar and Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal reviewed 39 objections to the three farm laws raised by the farmer leaders in the talks on Thursday and identified eight issues on which changes can be made.
Tomar and Goyal, who are holding the talks on behalf of the government, were told to keep ready written assurances on continuation of the Minimum Support Price (MSP) and the Mandi system as repeatedly pressed by the most farmer leaders.
The farmers’ leaders insisted that they want the repeal of the farm laws lock, stock and barrel and not tweak them here and there.
Tomar urged them to ask at least the elderly and children protesting in the shivering cold to return home. Tomar also distributed a government note on the point-wise replies to 39 objections raised by the farmer leaders in Thursday's talks. Minister of State Som Parkash, an MP from Hoshiarpur, Punjab, explained the replies in Punjabi, but tension mounted when Agriculture Secretary Sanjay Agarwal tried to explain that the new laws will benefit the farmers and not to be misled by a false propaganda. The farmer leaders snubbed Agarwal that it is no time for speeches and they want to know the government's commitments.
The farmer leaders insisted that they won't come back for any further negotiations as they find no use of "tarikh par tarikh" (date after date). Tomar and Som Parkash, however, cooled down their tempers, assuring them that the government understands their sentiments.