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Uncertainty over next round of talks on Jan 15

WITH THE Supreme Court staying the implementation of three contentious farm laws and constituting a four-member committee to listen to grievances relating to them, uncertainty revolves around the January 15 meeting between the Centre and representatives of the protesting farmer unions.

While there is no official word from the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare on the meeting, a source told The Indian Express, “We will read the Supreme Court order. Our lawyers will tell us what we should do next, then only we can tell you about that (next meeting).”

Another source said that as the apex court has constituted a committee to listen to the farmers’ grievances, there is no use of holding parallel discussions.

A three-member ministerial committee led by Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar has been holding negotiations with representatives of the farmer unions. So far, eight rounds of talks have remained inconclusive. In the last round of talks on January 8, both sides agreed to meet again on January 15.

On Tuesday, a Bench of Chief Justice of India S A Bobde and Justices A S Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian passed an order staying the three farm laws and constituted the committee, saying that talks between the farmers’ bodies and the Centre have “not yielded any result so far”.

“Though several rounds of negotiations have taken place between the Government of India and the farmers’ bodies, no solution seems to be in sight,” the Supreme Court observed in its order. “Be that as it may, the negotiations between the farmers’ bodies and the Government have not yielded any result so far. Therefore, we are of the view that the constitution of a committee of experts in the field of agriculture to negotiate between the farmers’ bodies and the Government of India may create a congenial atmosphere and improve the trust and confidence of the farmers.”

On January 4, the seventh round of talks remained inconclusive as farmer leaders were adamant on their demand for repeal of the laws.

In the December 30 meeting, a consensus had emerged on two contentious issues. The two issues on which the Centre had conceded to the farm unions’ demands were to “decriminalizing” stubble burning by excluding farmers from the ambit of the Commission for the Air Quality Management in National Capital Region and Adjoining Areas Ordinance 2020, and drop those provisions of the draft Electricity Amendment Bill, 2020, which are intended to change the existing mode of subsidy payment to consumers.

However, the stalemate continued on two other key demands of farmers, including repealing of the three farm laws and legal guarantee of minimum support price.

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