“MSP (Minimum Support Price) will not be touched, no changes will be made to it,” he said.
On its part, the government assured the group of nearly 40 farmer leaders that all their valid concerns would be discussed and considered with an open mind, but the other side flagged several loopholes and deficiencies in the laws, which they said were passed hastily in September.
“People have reservations on MSP. I would like to reiterate that the MSP system will continue and we will assure farmers about it,” Tomar responded to farmer leaders during the meeting.
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Moreover, during the meeting, farmer leaders also suggested the government that a special session of the Parliament be called and the new farm laws be abolished.
The meeting of farmer leaders with the central government concluded. The next meeting is slated to take place on Saturday, 5 December at 2 pm.
“Points of discussion have been prepared. Discussions will be held on these points on December 5 and we hope that the agitation will end the same day,” said Som Prakash, Minister of State for Commerce & Industry later.
The fourth-round of talks began around noon amid ongoing protests by farmers seeking repeal of the farm laws.
“Some points have been raised in previous meetings and today’s meet. Farmer unions are mainly concerned about these. Government has no ego, it was discussing with farmers with an open mind. Farmers are concerned that the new laws will end Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC),” Tomar said.
Tomar assured the farmers that government will contemplate about seeing that APMC is further strengthened and its usage increases. “New laws lay down provision for private mandis outside purview of APMC. So, we’ll also contemplate about having an equal tax for private as well as mandis under AMPC Act,” he said.
“In the new Act, it has been provided that farmers can take their grievances to SDM court. Farmers’ Unions feel that SDM court is a lower court and they should be allowed to go the court. Government will consider this demand,” the agriculture minister said after the meeting concluded.
They also expressed their concerns over an Ordinance on stubble burning and the Act on electricity. “The government is open to consider and discuss these issues as well,” he added.
It was raised in meeting that if trade takes place outside the purview of mandi, it’ll take place on the basis of PAN Card, which can be easily acquired by anyone today. So, trader should be registered. “We will also ensure that the trader gets registered,” Tomar further said.
“Government has given indications over MSP. It seems that their stand over MSP will be fine. The talks have made a little progress,” Rakesh Tikait, Spokesperson, Bharatiya Kisan Union said post the meeting.
Thousands of farmers have been camping at the Singhu and Tikri borders of the national capital for the last eight days as part of their protest against the laws.
Along with Tomar, Railways, Commerce and Food Minister Piyush Goyal and Minister of State for Commerce Som Parkash, who is an MP from Punjab, are holding talks with the representatives of the farmer groups at the Vigyan Bhawan.
Reports also suggested that during the meeting, Goyal told farmers’ representatives that a police escort will be sent for them for the next meeting.
The government said that the meeting started in the afternoon and discussions are being held in a cordial atmosphere.
However, the 40 farmer leaders present at the meeting refused the lunch offered by the government and preferred to eat the food ferried in a van from the Singhu border, where thousands of their colleagues are sitting in protest against the new agri laws.
They also did not accept tea and water offered to them during the meeting, which began around mid-day.
On December 1, talks between both the sides ended in a stalemate after farmers’ groups rejected the government’s suggestion of a new committee to look into issues raised by the protesting farmers.
The government had rejected the demand for repealing the laws and asked the farmers’ bodies to identify specific issues related to the newly enacted Acts and submit those by December 2 for consideration and discussion on Thursday.
Enacted in September, the laws have been presented by the government as major reforms in the agriculture sector by removing middlemen and allowing farmers to sell anywhere in the country.
However, the protesting farmers have been worried that the new laws will eliminate the safety cushion of a Minimum Support Price (MSP) and procurement system, while rendering ineffective the mandi system that ensures earnings for various stakeholders in the farm sector.
On Wednesday, agitating farmers demanded that the Centre convene a special session of Parliament and repeal the Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020; the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020; and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020.