Farm laws: No headway in meeting between protesting farmers, Centre; Tomar says govt to hold further talks

During the meeting, both the sides tried to bring a common ground to restore the rail services in Punjab, which have been suspended since September 24, when farmers started their “rail roko” agitation against the central laws.

A meeting between Punjab farmers’ union and the central government Friday over the contentious farm laws could not reach an accord with both sides sticking to their ground.

Tomar along with Railways Minister Piyush Goyal held a day-long meeting with representatives of various farmer unions at Vigyan Bhawan in New Delhi. During the seven-hour-long crucial meeting, both the sides heard each other’s stand and tried to bring a common ground to restore the rail services in Punjab, which have been suspended since September 24, when farmers started their “rail roko” agitation against the central laws.

“The meeting remained inconclusive and the ministers after hearing our side said they would again meet shortly to resolve the issue,” Bhartiya Kisan Manch president Jathedar Boota Singh Shadipur was quoted as saying by news agency PTI after the meeting. He said the farmers’ unions wanted services of goods trains to resume as Punjab was suffering due to the blockade.

While farmers claimed to have lifted their dharnas from rail tracks for the resumption of freight trains, the Centre said they will either run both the goods and the passengers trains or none. The farmers had reservation on starting passenger services and said they would discuss the matter, but were keen that the Railways started the freight trains.

Following this, Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar said another round of talks will be held between the Centre and the protesting farmers to resolve the differences. Punjab farmers insisted on their core demand to repeal the acts and give statutory backing to MSP purchase.

Tomar said that train services will resume after the state government and protesting farmer unions assure the safety of the tracks. “The railways minister in the meeting said that trains will resume after the state government assures safety of the tracks. Punjab government and farmers have to think over this issue,” Tomar said.

The agriculture minister also said that Punjab farmers have been assured that the new farm laws will not impact the MSP procurement and mandi system. “APMC mandi will be there in Punjab and MSP buying will continue there,” he said, adding that procurement of paddy in this kharif season in Punjab has been significant.

Opinion | Off the track in Punjab

Underlining that the Centre is committed towards MSP buying, Tomar said the government has procured about 273.35 lakh tonnes of paddy at minimum support price (MSP) so far this kharif season, out of which Punjab’s contribution was 192.04 lakh tonnes.

“We discussed for long hours. The discussion was held in a cordial atmosphere. But there were differences on the government’s view on their (farmers) issues. But we have told (them) that this discussion will continue,” Tomar told reporters after the meeting.

This meeting took place a month after the union agriculture secretary’s discussion with Punjab farmers in the national capital remained inconclusive. Farmer bodies had staged a walk out demanding ministerial-level talks.

The meeting also came ahead of another protest being planned under the banner of the All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee (AIKSCC) in Delhi on November 26 and 27 against the three new farm laws enacted by the central government.

Read | Amarinder appeals to farmers to completely lift rail blockade

Reacting to the development, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh hailed the “positive spirit” in which the farmer unions and the Centre held the talks and termed it a “constructive development”.

Farmers in Punjab have expressed apprehension that the new laws would pave a way for the dismantling of the minimum support price system, leaving them at the “mercy” of big corporates. They have been demanding that these new laws be repealed.

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