Each side has to take steps to reach solution, Tomar says before talks with farmers

Farmer leaders entering Vigyan Bhavan express determination not to budge from their stance

After a show of strength through a tractor rally on Thursday, farmer leaders are back at the negotiating table with Central Ministers on Friday. This is the eighth round of talks.

“I am hopeful that talks will be held in a positive atmosphere and a solution will be found. During discussions, each side has to take steps to reach a solution,” Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar told journalists before the negotiations began. He is leading discussions from the government’s side, along with Food Minister Piyush Goyal and Minister of State for Commerce Som Parkash.

However, farmer leaders entering Vigyan Bhavan on Friday afternoon expressed the determination not to budge from their stance. They are demanding that three farm reform laws be repealed and that they be given a legal guarantee that they will get a minimum support price for their crops. They have refused to consider the Centre’s proposals for amendments to the laws instead. Tens of thousands of farmers have been camped on the roads outside Delhi for the last month and a half, while multiple rounds of discussions have ended in stalemate.

“We will not go home until our demands have been met. The government should not underestimate the anger of farmers,” said Abhimanyu Kohar, spokesperson for the Rashtriya Kisan Mahasangh.

Parallel tractor parade

Farmers say they will enter Delhi on Republic Day and hold a parallel tractor parade if there has been no progress by then.

However, the Centre may also be prepared to go on the offensive. Minister of State for Agriculture Kailash Choudhury told PTI that the Pesticide Bill and Seeds Bill were next on the government’s legislative reform agenda. Although some farmers could be “misguided”, such reforms were in the interest of farmers, he said.

Baba Lakha Singh, a religious leader who met Mr. Tomar on Thursday, told the Punjabi language media that the Centre may consider a proposal to allow the States the option to implement the three laws or not. However, both the unions and the Centre denied that such a proposal had been mooted, and several union leaders indicated that they would refuse to consider it if it was raised at Friday’s meeting.

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