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In climbdown, government offers to suspend agri laws for 18 months | India News


NEW DELHI/BATHINDA: In a major concession to farmers’ unions opposing the new agri laws, the Centre on Wednesday said it was ready to suspend implementation of the legislations for up to one and a half years if the farm representatives agreed to form a committee to discuss all issues and objections threadbare and arrive at a solution.
The government’s offer was immediately read as a big climbdown or U-turn as it had vehemently opposed the Supreme Court’s decision to suspend the laws. But agriculture minister Narendra Tomar’s remarks could also reflect a thinking in Centre that the laws were in any case stayed by the apex 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Tomar, while reiterating that the laws would not be repealed, struck an accommodative stance, saying the government-union discussions were taking place on Guru Gobind Singh Jayanti, a sacred day for all, and the two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 is understood to have told the unions. Interestingly, the talks were scheduled for Tuesday but were moved to Wednesday.
The unions will hold three sets of meetings on Thursday even as they made it clear they will not appear before the SC-constituted committee. The government said the committee it has proposed could proceed in parallel with the panel set up by the SC to examine the laws.
Farm leader Balbir Singh Rajewal said, “The government has given a proposal to suspend the laws for up to one and a half years by filing an affidavit in court. We declined to accept this but assured the ministers that we will discuss the proposal in our morcha comprising close to 450 farm organisations… Till then, all our protest proposals including parade on January 26 stand.”
Prominent farm leaders Darshan Pal and Jagjit Singh Dallewal said the ministers had said the laws may not be repealed but the government was ready to discuss and implement any amendments. “The ministers (Piyush Goyal and Som Parkash besides Tomar) reiterated their proposal of forming a small committee and said the laws will remain suspended till the committee hands over the report,” they said.
According to sources, Tomar said the Centre had offered several amendments and was even ready to discuss all issues threadbare (including repeal of laws) in a committee with unions leaders and government representatives. Asked after the meeting if this amounted to a backsliding, he said, “It will be a victory of democracy the day the farmers’ movement ends and all farmers return to their homes. This will not be a victory of any individual or group.”
The deliberations among the unions are likely to be detailed and there is a possibility that they might ask for the suspension of the laws to be longer. But while there was some positivity over the proposal, the matter is contentious as some groups are insistent on repeal. During the meeting, one of leaders, Joginder Ugrahan, said the government should just set 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. Many among the unions hinted at agreeing for a one and a half year 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.
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.
At the very beginning of the talks on Wednesday, the farm leaders raised the issue of notices sent by National Investigation Agency to many supporters of the movement and arrests of farmers in Himachal Pradesh. They quoted a BJP leader but Tomar said the matter had been denied and a case filed for false news.
“We asked the government to withdraw the fake cases registered by NIA against farmers. In response to the issue, the government said they are looking into the matter. The ministers asked us to provide the names of leaders against whom new cases, if any, have been registered,” said Hannan Mollah, general secretary of All India Kisan Sabha, after attending the talks.



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