Indian government to meet protesting farmers again as talks continue

NEW DELHI: A fourth round of talks between the Indian government and 40 farmers’ unions over divisive farm laws failed to make headway on Thursday (Dec 3), but a cabinet minister said they would continue discussions on Saturday.

In India’s biggest farm unrest in years, tens of thousands of growers are protesting on the outskirts of the capital Delhi against the laws seeking to rid the sector of antiquated procurement procedures and allow farmers to sell to institutional buyers and big international retailers.

The farmers, who form a powerful political constituency, fear the laws passed in September could see the government stop buying grains at guaranteed prices, leaving them at the mercy of private buyers.

India’s Agriculture & Farmers Welfare Minister Narendra Singh Tomar said Thursday’s talks, which lasted seven hours, were cordial and the government was sympathetic.

“We addressed the issues raised by them and we are going to meet again on the 5th,” Tomar told reporters.

Bus | How buses show enthusiasts new perspectives about Singapore - and  themselves - Public Transport
Farmers gather around a buffalo cart as they shout slogans during a protest against the newly passed farm bills at the Delhi-Uttar Pradesh border in Ghaziabad, India, Dec 2, 2020. (Photo: REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui)

He added the government would continue the guaranteed price system, but farm leaders have previously sought a written assurance.

“The government did propose amendments to the laws but farmers unions still insisted on taking these laws back,” said Kavitha Kuruganti, a leader of the farmers’ group All India Kisan Sangarsh Coordination Committee.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has defended the new laws, and said they only give an option to farmers to sell to private buyers.

Still, the protests pose a crucial test for Modi’s ability to reform India’s vast agriculture sector, which makes up nearly 15 per cent of the country’s US$2.9 trillion economy and employs around half of its 1.3 billion people.

“We humbly request you to pay heed to the voice of farmers and withdraw completely the implementation of these Acts,” Avik Saha, another farmers’ leader, wrote to the government.

“The issue is not about one particular clause, but about the direction in which the government of India is pushing farming in India,” Saha wrote.

Source: Reuters/ec/CNA

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s