NEW DELHI — Talks between leaders of protesting farmers and the Indian government ended abruptly in a stalemate Friday when the agriculture minister said he had nothing more to offer than an 18-month suspension of contentious agricultural reform laws.
Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar asked the farmers to reconsider their rejection of a government offer two days ago to set up a committee to look into their concerns about the laws, which have triggered the biggest farmers’ protests in years.
The farmers’ organizations announced Thursday that they would not accept anything other than the repeal of the three laws.
No date was set for another round of talks between the government and protest leaders. Tomar told reporters that he is ready to meet again if they decide to accept the government proposal.
Tens of thousands of farmers have been blocking key highways connecting the capital with the country’s north for nearly two months and have threatened to intensify their protest by organizing a massive tractor rally in New Delhi during Republic Day celebrations next Tuesday.
Shiv Kumar Kakkar, a farmer leader, complained that police have been issuing threats to the farmers to call off their protest.
Farmers say the legislation passed by Parliament in September will lead to the cartelization and commercialization of agriculture, make farmers vulnerable to corporate greed and devastate their earnings.
The government insists the laws will benefit farmers and boost production through private investment. It has repeatedly ruled out withdrawing the legislation but says it could make some amendments.
Ashok Sharma, The Associated Press