Sixth-round talks: Two easy ticks, but farm laws and MSP stay sticky

Deal done over power tariff and stiff penalties for stubble burning; seventh round of talks on January 4; unions again defer tractor rally

Published: 31st December 2020 08:22 AM  |   Last Updated: 31st December 2020 08:22 AM   |  A+A-

Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar, Railway Minister Piyush Goyal and MoS for Commerce Som Prakash have food served by farmers during a snack break at a meeting over new farm laws, at Vig

By Express News Service

NEW DELHI/CHANDIGARH : The sixth round of talks between the Centre and agitating farm unions on Wednesday appeared to have produced a partial breakthrough as both sides agreed on two points — air pollution law and the electricity amendment bill — but there was no meeting ground on the more contentious issues of the repeal of the farm laws and legal guarantee for MSP.

The improving chemistry was also exemplified by the fact that Union ministers Narendra Tomar, Piyush Goyal and Som Prakash accepted the ‘langar’ food offered by the farmers while the protesters for the first time accepted the tea served by the government. Union leaders had earlier refused to eat food served by the government during the previous round of talks.

READ HERE | Centre offers committee setup for better MSP implementation, farmers stick to agri laws repeal demand; next meet on Jan 4

After the five-hour marathon talks on Wednesday, Union agriculture minister Tomar said the next round of talks would be held on January 4. Sensing a slightly accommodative government and also in view of the agreement on two of their demands, the farmers decided to put off the tractor rally they had planned for Thursday along the Kundli- Manesar-Palwal Expressway just outside Delhi.

While the government tried to paint the sixth round of talks as positive with Tomar claiming the meeting ended on a good note, the farmers said the agreement on two smaller issues can’t be termed a breakthrough as they are firm on their main demands of repeal of the laws and MSP. Tomar said the government had agreed to “decriminalise” the Commission for the Air Quality Management in National Capital Region and Adjoining Areas Ordinance, 2020, while the electricity amendment bill has been put on hold. “The first issue was an ordinance related to the environment.

Unions were apprehensive about farmers being included.

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Farmers also feel if reform is introduced in the Electricity Act, they will suffer losses,” Tomar said. Noting that the government has softened its stance, All India Kisan Sabha general secretary Hannan Mollah, who attended the talks, said, “I don’t call it a breakthrough or victory but some advancement from the deadlock.” Bharatiya Kisan Union (Rajewal) president Balbir Singh Rajewal said, “The government is still adamant on the repeal of the farm laws and MSP. We are hopeful the government will agree on them also.”

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