The road-blockages and protests by select farmer organisations, mainly from Punjab, against the three farm bills passed by the Modi government had progressed into the second month now. As the farmer organisations hardened their stand and refused to accept any changes short of the laws being completely repealed, the government too has now refused to give in to the blackmail. It is now being reported that the government has flat-out refused to repeal the laws and instead, told the farmer organisations that owing to the stalemate in talks, it would be best if the matter is left to the Court to decide.
The government, in its response, said that they were amenable to the amendments and concessions but not with the demand of complete rollback of the three newly introduced Farm Bills. The Centre implied that the farmers union can either arrive at a better deal with the government or let the court decide the matter.
In its previous hearings, the Court had suggested instituting a committee which should include not just the protesting unions from Punjab, Haryana and western UP but other parts of the country as well. In such a committee, there’s a possibility that all the 40 demonstrating unions who are in talks with the Centre may not be accommodated.
The top court is to hear the matter on Monday while the next round of talks between the two sides is planned to take place on January 15.
Farmers’ union reluctant to take the matter to the Supreme Court
The central government’s sharp and blunt response did not sit well with the protesting farmers’ union and they expressed their disappointment for letting Supreme Court intervene in the matter. The union was profoundly perturbed that the Centre wanted the matter to be resolved by the court of law.
“It is a sad day for democracy that an elected government in the middle of talks resorts to the Supreme Court and says let’s get this resolved through the court,” said Kavitha Kuruganti of Mahila Kisan Adhikar Manch after the eight-round of talks ended.
Realising that their demands may not hold water in the Supreme Court, the farm groups asserted that they would continue to protest and intensify it and not retreat even if the apex court asked them to end the demonstrations.
BKU Ekta Ugrahan president Joginder Singh Ugrahan reiterated the maximalist stance held by the farmers’ group. Speaking in an interview to TOI, Singh said, “We had no hopes from the meeting and it progressed on the expected lines. The government is not at all ready to repeal the laws but we are not ready for anything less.”
Krantikari Kisan Union president Darshan Pal said that they will not be putting forth their case in the Supreme Court. Pal defiantly stated that even if the court asks them to lift the protests, they will not heed to the court’s order and continue protesting.
The farmers’ unions are not interested in approaching the Supreme Court because they claim that the issue is of the policy domain and not of a legal or technical matter. However, the Centre believes that in the matters related to protest against the constitutionality of the laws, the country’s highest court should make a decision.
The Court will submit to the Supreme Court on January 11 what it has offered to the protesting farmers’ union. It is pertinent to note that the Centre has already conceded two of the four demands made by the demonstrators. The Centre has exempted the farmers from being penalised under the ‘Commission for the Air Quality Management in National Capital Region and Adjoining Areas Ordinance, 2020’ for stubble burning. Besides, it has also decided to withdraw the ‘Electricity Amendment Bill 2020’.
The eighth round of talks between farmers and Centre ends on an inconclusive note
Earlier on Friday, the eighth round of talks between the protesting groups and the Centre ended on an inconclusive note after the farmers’ unions remained stubborn on their demand of revoking the three Farm Laws. Agriculture Minister Narendra Tomar while speaking to the media informed that the farmers’ unions were asked to offer an option other than repealing the laws, but they provided no option and therefore the next round of talks was shifted to January 15.
Meanwhile, the demonstrators have stepped up their efforts to pressurise the Centre into accepting their demands. A new protest site has come up at Gangaicha border in Rewari even as the protest in Manesar is gathering steam. Until now, the Singhu border has been the protest site where the so-called farmers had camped in opposition to the newly introduced Farm Bills. The demonstrators have been stubbornly demanding the annulment of the three laws while the central government has said that the complete rollback of the laws is off the negotiation table.