Indian government officials to meet with farmer representatives on Saturday (Dec. 05) in a bid to resolve grievances on farm reforms as their fourth attempt on Thursday failed to make a headway.
India’s Agriculture and Farmers Welfare Minister Narendra Singh Tomar said Thursday’s talks, which lasted seven hours, were cordial and the government was sympathetic and added that discussions would continue.
Tens of thousands of farmers, most of them from northern states of Punjab and Haryana, have taken to the streets in protest against newly enacted farm laws and blocked roads on the outskirts of New Delhi.
The farmers say the laws passed in September will lead the government to stop buying grain at minimum guaranteed prices and result in exploitation by corporations who will push down prices.
“We addressed the issues raised by them and we are going to meet again on the 5th,” Tomar told reporters.
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: CNA)