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Gov pulls back, offers to suspend farm laws for up to 18 months

By Saima Siddiqui 
Updated Date

New Delhi: In its 10th round of talks with the farmers’ unions, on January 20, center was seen receding from its previous stand and offered to suspend implementation of the three contentious agricultural laws for up to one and a half years provided that the farm representatives agree to form a committee to discuss all issues and objections threadbare and arrive at a solution.

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This major U-turn by government came after it had vehemently opposed the Supreme Court’s decision to suspend the laws, however, agriculture minister Narendra Tomar’s remarks also reflected a thinking in Centre that the laws were in any case stayed by the top court and the opportunity could be used to seek a breakthrough in the deadlock.

While Tomar said the Centre could submit an affidavit to this effect in the court to assure the unions it would not backtrack, the farmers said they would discuss the offer on Thursday and return for talks with the government on Friday noon even as they said repeal of laws remained their main objective and demand.

Tomar, while reiterating that the farm laws would not be repealed, emphasized to resolve it by talks on the auspicious day of Guru Gobind Singh Jayanti, saying that the two sides should find a way forward. “We can sit till midnight but we must find a way out on this holy day,” he told the unions. Initially, the talks were scheduled for Tuesday but were deferred to Wednesday.

Furthermore, the unions will hold three sets of meetings on Thursday even though they made it clear they will not appear before the SC-constituted committee. The government, however, said the committee it has proposed could proceed in parallel with the panel set up by the top court to examine the laws.

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On the SC-appointed committee, Tomar said that panel would continue to work as per its mandate. “We do have our direct accountability with farmers and the situation which has arisen due to the farmers’ movement. We are also taking forward this (parallel) discussion as part of our responsibility,” he said.

Meanwhile, the unions are likely to ask to extend the duration of suspension of the laws from existing 1.5 years as there are still some farmers’ groups who are insistent on repeal. Many among the unions hinted at agreeing for proposed 18 month suspension to end the deadlock as it, in any case, appears to be a much better deal compared to a brief suspension of implementation of laws provided by the SC.

During the meeting, one of leaders, Joginder Ugrahan, said the government should just seal the next date of talks while Rajewal said the proposal would be discussed in detail. The composition of the committee could be decided during the next round of meeting on Friday.

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