NEW DELHI: A fourth round of talks on controversial farm laws between the Indian government and 40 farmers’ unions failed to make headway on Thursday, but a cabinet minister said on Saturday they would resume discussions.
In Indian biggest farm uprising in years, on the outskirts of the capital Delhi, tens of thousands of growers are protesting against laws that aim to rid the sector of obsolete procurement processes and encourage farmers to sell to institutional buyers and major foreign retailers.
Nirmala Sitharaman, finance minister, said that the government would communicate with the protesting farmers and look into their grievances and protect the laws.
Acts in the farm sector have not been completed in a jiffy. “Consultations have been held over the years and discussed by parliamentary committees,” Sitharaman told the Reuters Global Investment Outlook Summit.
The farmers, who form a large political constituency, fear that the laws passed in September could see the government stop buying grains at guaranteed rates, leaving them at the mercy of private buyers.
Indian Minister of Agriculture & Farmers’ Welfare, Narendra Singh Tomar, said the talks that lasted seven hours on Thursday were cordial and the government was sympathetic.
“We have addressed the issues raised by them and on the 5th we will meet again,” Tomar told reporters.
The government will maintain the assured price policy, he said but farm leaders have previously requested a written commitment.
The government suggested changes to the rules, but farmers’ unions also insisted on bringing back these laws,” said Kavitha Kuruganti, a leader of the Kisan Sangarsh Coordination Committee of the All Indian farmers group.”
The government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi has defended the new laws and said they only give farmers an option to sell to private buyers.
Nevertheless the demonstrations are a critical measure of Modi’s willingness to overhaul India’s large agricultural industry, which accounts for almost 15% of the country’s $2.9 trillion economy and hires almost half of its 1.3 billion population.
“Avik Saha, another farmers’ leader, wrote to the government, “We humbly ask you to heed the voice of farmers and fully revoke the execution of these Actions.
“The issue is not about one specific clause, but about the direction in which Indian government is pushing agriculture in India,” Saha wrote.