The start itself was unpromising. Rakesh Tikait of BKU announced on Tuesday afternoon that 13 farmer leaders are meeting Home Minister Amit Shah at 7pm. But an hour past the designated time, Tikait was sitting in his vehicle outside Shah’s Krishna Menon Marg residence, frantically calling up officials, trying to figure out what happened to the meeting. He told News18, “We were all coming in a cavalcade. My car got separated, now I don’t know where the meeting venue is. We thought it was at the minister’s residence.”
Rudloo Singh Mansa of Punjab Kisan Union was another angry man. Stopped and told by police outside Shah’s residence that no meeting was happening there, the farmer leader was furious at the miscommunication. “I am going back to the Singhu border, this is no way to treat us. You call us and then say no meeting,” he told the waiting media contingent.
Eventually, both Mansa and Tikait reached the meeting venue, the Indian Council of Agricultural Research at Pusa Institute. Shah also drove in around 9pm after suggestion of a virtual meet was rejected by the farmers. Agriculture Minister Narendra Tomar joined in a few minutes later.
Shah drew the red line during talks, making it very clear that repealing the farm laws was not an option. He said the government was open to amendments in the law to take into account the concerns of the farmers. A formal written proposal of what the government was willing to amend would be sent to farmers by Wednesday, he said. The farmer leaders were unhappy and decided to call off the Vigyan Bhawan talks that were scheduled from Wednesday noon.
“No meeting will be held between farmers and government tomorrow. The minister has said that a proposal will be given to the farmer leaders tomorrow. Farmer leaders will hold a meeting over government’s proposal,” Hannan Mollah, General Secretary of All India Kisan Sabha, told the media after the meeting ended at 11pm.
Farmer leaders are likely to hold a meeting at Singhu border after receiving the proposal from government. Officials indicated that the proposal could entail a written assurance that Minimum Support Price regime won’t be scrapped. The proposal could also put it in writing that the APMC mandi system won’t be affected by the laws and it will continue as it is. The other amendments to the law which the government proposal could mention include criteria for registration of private traders for trading outside of regulated mandis and putting up their details on a government portal, equal taxes for APMC mandis and private ones to ensure level playing field and allowing courts to hear appeals in case of disputes.
The Union cabinet meets on Wednesday morning and the proposal could be discussed on the side of the meet.