he tenth round of talks between farmer unions and the Centre has offered a distant ray of hope for an eventual end to the ongoing impasse over the three new farm laws. The government Wednesday suggested that it would suspend operation of the three laws for one and half years. It has also proposed to set up a joint committee to find an amicable solution in the interest of the farming community. The farmer unions have not accepted the government’s offer. However, pending their response, the latest move by the government on the contentious laws needs to be welcome. It has not come a day too soon. We can now safely assume that the Republic Day celebration in Delhi would pass off smoothly. But, it is disconcerting to note that a section of the protesting farmers has cold-shouldered the government’s offer. Their stand is they will not settle for anything short of a complete repeal of the three laws. The two sides have decided to meet again Friday after the union leaders hold internal consultations Thursday to decide on the government’s offer. The three laws have already been stayed by the Supreme Court till further order and a committee of experts has been formed to resolve the deadlock. The panel has been asked by the apex court to submit its report within two months after consulting all stakeholders.
The government’s offer to suspend the implementation of the three laws assumes a lot of significance. This is first time that the Modi government, ever since it came to power in 2014, has agreed to revisit a legislation that it has brought in. It has always withstood pressure to roll back its laws, be it goods and services tax and demonetization, among others. Suspension of the implementation of the laws will give a good deal of time to reorient the discussions. One and half years is a pretty long time to iron out the sticking points. Both sides need to be accommodative of each other’s view points. A zealous determination by the farmer unions for nearly two months brought the government down to its knees. However, having said that, the farmer unions should not take it as a victory. Give and take is intrinsic to the success of any dialogue process. The government has done the right thing by conceding to suspend the laws. The ball is now in the court of the farmer unions to reciprocate the move. Talks at different levels must continue. The Supreme Court has rightly shown its disappointment to the aspersions cast on its four-member panel. Doubting the integrity of the members of a committee even before they start hearing the case is premature. The farmers have demanded a legal guarantee to the minimum support price (MSP) of food grains. The Centre is not willing to do that even as they assure that they will never tamper with the MSP. There is no harm in bringing in some sort of a mechanism that could inspire confidence among farmers with regard to operation of MSP. The minimum support price has always been an upwardly mobile subject. Therefore, giving a written assurance that it will remain so should not be a problem. The climb down by the Centre is a good move but it is just the first step. A lot needs to be done by both the sides before the impasse over the three farm laws goes for good.