India farmers reject govt offer to suspend reforms
NEW DELHI, Jan 22: Farmers' unions have rejected an Indian government offer to put controversial reforms on hold for 18 months. The unions said the three new farm laws must be fully repealed, a move the government has ruled out.
Farmers have been camped on Delhi's outskirts since 26 November to protest against the laws, which will further open up agriculture to the free market. The government had proposed setting up a joint committee to find an amicable solution to end the deadlock.
The eleventh round of talks between the centre and farmers protesting the agriculture laws ended Friday evening. Furthermore, unlike earlier talks, no date was set for the next meeting, with the centre telling farmers "all possible options have been given" and asking them, instead, to hold internal discussions on the proposal to temporarily suspend the laws before returning to the table.
Taken together, the laws loosen rules around sale, pricing and storage of farm produce - rules that have protected India's farmers from the free market for decades. One of the biggest changes is that farmers will be allowed to sell their produce at a market price directly to private players - agricultural businesses, supermarket chains and online grocers.
Most Indian farmers currently sell the majority of their produce at government-controlled wholesale markets or mandis at assured floor prices. The reforms give farmers the option of selling outside of this so-called "mandi system".
But it's unclear how this will play out in reality. Farmers are mainly concerned that this will eventually lead to the end of wholesale markets and guaranteed prices, leaving them with no back-up option. If they are not satisfied with the price offered by a private buyer, they cannot return to the mandi or use it as a bargaining chip during negotiations. -BBC