Fourth round of farmer negotiations kicks off with union ministers Piyush Goyal and Narendra Singh Tomar at the helm

Fourth round of farmer negotiations kicks off with union ministers Piyush Goyal and Narendra Singh Tomar at the helm
Union minister Piyush Goyal (left) and Narendra Singh Tomar (right) leading the farmer negotiations in Delhi on 3 December 2020IANS
A crucial fourth round of talks between the Centre and over 34 farmer union representatives has started here, even as the farmers protest entered the eighth straight day with thousands sitting on different Delhi borders blocking essential supply chains to the city.

Like the previous similar talks held on December 1, Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Tomar and Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution Minister Piyush Goyal are leading the meeting, which is expected to play a major role in farmers' future course of action on whether they would continue the protest or withdraw it.

Bharatiya Kisan Union, Bharatiya Kisan Sanyukta Morcha and Krantikari Kisan Union are among over the 34 farm union representatives taking part in the meeting, which started around 12.30 p.m.. They will put the demands of thousands of farmers owing allegiance to these organisations and huddled under the open sky in the winter days, refusing to budge until their demands are met.

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The meeting is also being attended by Union Minister of State for Commerce Som Prakash and Agriculture Secretary Sanjay Agarwal.

The Singhu and Tikri borders, and also the Chilla and Ghazipur ones have now been hosting these multitudes for over a week. Hundreds of farmers have almost blocked entry and exit out of the capital.

The fourth round of meetings with the farmer leaders started at Vigyan Bhawan after the earlier talks remained inconclusive on December 1.

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In the last meeting, the farmers' representatives had unanimously turned down the Centre's proposal of a special committee to thrash out the differences and resolve concerns over the farm laws.

A breakthrough was not expected in a single meeting, sources had said, in view of the government firmly standing by the laws it has called "historic reforms" in the farm sector.

The farmers though have hardened their stance, warning that if on Thursday "the last chance" for the government to take a decision on the laws was not taken the stir could intensify further.

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In place of a committee, they have demanded a special session of Parliament to repeal what they have called "black laws" made to favour corporates -- which not entertained might lead to a chokehold across the nation, not just Delhi.

The meeting between the government and the farmer representative began after a detailed discussion among the Home Minister, Agriculture Minister and the Consumer Affairs Minister earlier in the day. The meeting had taken place at the Home Minister's residence.

Meanwhile, amid the escalating protests around Delhi, spearheaded by farmers from Punjab and Haryana, Home Minister Amit Shah and Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh also met for around half-an-hour.

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The government is still holding on to its stance of not rolling back the three farm laws which farmers allege are "anti-farm" and "black laws".

The three laws are: Farmers Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020, The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020, and The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020.

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