A day after protesting farmers rejected the government's offer for a written assurance on MSP and amend few provisions in the new farm laws, Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar on Thursday urged union leaders to consider the proposals and said he is ready for further discussions with them.
"The government is ready to consider with an open mind any provision in the new laws where farmers have any issues and we want to clarify all their apprehensions," Tomar said at a press conference here.
"We kept waiting for suggestions from farmers' leaders to address their concerns, but they are stuck on the repeal of laws," he said, while virtually ruling out conceding to the key demand with which thousands of farmers are protesting on various borders of the national capital for nearly two weeks.
Tomar said the government has always been ready for dialogue with farmers and it remains so.
"We are concerned about the farmers protesting in cold weather and during the prevailing COVID-19 pandemic. Farmers' unions should consider the government's proposal at the earliest and then we can mutually decide on the next meeting if required," the minister said.
The government fad on Wednesday proposed to give a "written assurance" that the existing Minimum Support Price (MSP) regime for procurement will continue.
However, the farmers' unions rejected the proposal and said they would intensify their agitation until the government accepts their demand for a complete repeal of the three laws.
The government has also proposed to make necessary amendments on at least seven issues, including one to allay fears about the weakening of the mandi system.
Tomar, who along with his cabinet colleague Piyush Goyal had met senior party leader and Union Home Minister Amit Shah on Wednesday night, said the government is ready to provide all necessary clarifications on their concerns about the new farm laws enacted in September, which he said were passed after detailed discussions in Parliament.
Goyal, who was also present at the media briefing, said the new laws do not affect the APMC and that would remain protected. Farmers are only being given an additional option to sell their produce at private mandis.
The farmer leaders had said on Wednesday there was nothing new in the government proposal and they will continue their protest. Shah, in a Tuesday night meeting with 13 union leaders, had said the government would send a draft proposal on key issues raised by the farmers regarding the three farm laws, even though the meeting had failed to break the ice with farm union leaders who are insisting for repealing these laws.
The sixth round of talks between the government and farm union leaders, which was scheduled for Wednesday morning, was also cancelled. In the proposal, sent by Agriculture Ministry Joint Secretary Vivek Aggarwal, the government said is ready to consider with an open heart the objections which farmers have on the new farm laws.
"The government has tried to address the concerns of farmers with an open heart and with respect for the farming community of the country. The government appeals the Kisan unions to end their agitation," it said.
On farmers' fears that mandis would weaken after the new laws, the government said an amendment can be made wherein state governments can register the traders operating outside mandis. States can also impose tax and cess as they used in APMC (Agricultural Produce Market Committee) mandis on them.
On concerns that farmers may be duped as anyone having just a pan card is allowed to trade outside APMC mandis, the government said to rule out such apprehensions, the state governments can be given the power to register such traders and make rules keeping in mind the local situation of farmers.
On the issue of farmers not getting the right to appeal in civil courts for dispute resolution, the government said it is open to making an amendment to provide for an appeal in civil courts. Currently, the dispute resolution is at the SDM level.
On fears that big corporates will take over farmlands, the government said it has already been made clear in the laws, but still, for clarity's sake, it can be written that no buyer can take loans against farmland nor any such condition will be made to farmers.
On attaching farmland under contract farming, the government said the existing provision is clear but still it can be clarified further if required.
On fear about the scrapping of the MSP regime and shifting of trade to private players, the government said it is ready to give a written assurance that the existing MSP will continue.
On demands to scrap the proposed Electricity Amendment bill 2020, the government said there won't be any change in the existing system of electricity bill payment for farmers.
On farmers' demand to scrap the Air Quality Management of NCR Ordinance 2020, under which there is the provision of penalty for stubble burning, the government said it is ready to find an appropriate solution.
On farmers' demand to provide registration of farming contracts, the government said till state governments make an arrangement for registration, an appropriate facility will be provided at the SDM office wherein a copy of the contract can be submitted 30 days after its signing.
On Constitutional validity of farm laws, the ministers said it has the power under Entry 33 of the Concurrent List to pass laws on contract farming and intra- and inter-state trade, and prohibit states from imposing fees/cess outside APMC areas. It had followed legal provisions while enacting the laws and earlier for bringing ordinances, the ministers said.