New Delhi: Soon after Prime Minister Narendra Modi urged the farmers protesting the Centre’s new agriculture laws to break the deadlock and resume dialogue, the farmer unions asked the government to fix a date for the next round of talks.
However, the protesting farmers raised concerns over Modi’s recent remarks in Rajya Sabha that a new “breed” of agitators called “andolan jivi” has emerged in the country. The farmers added that every protest has a big role to play in strengthening a country’s democracy.
Farmer leader Shiv Kumar Kakka, who is a senior member of the Samkyukta Kisan Morcha which is spearheading the ongoing stir, said they are ready for the next round of talks and the government should tell them the date and time of the meeting.
“We have never refused to hold talks with the government. Whenever it has called us for dialogue, we held discussions with Union ministers. We are ready for talks with them (government),” Kakka told PTI.
Eleven rounds of talks have been held over the contentious farm laws but the impasse continues as the farmer unions remain firm on their demands — the repeal of the three laws and legal guarantee for Minimum Support Price (MSP).
In the last round of talks, the government had offered to suspend the laws for 12-18 months, but the farmer unions rejected it.
Thousands of agitating farmers, mostly from Punjab, Haryana and western Uttar Pradesh, have been camping at three Delhi border points — Singhu, Tikri and Ghazipur — for over 70 days.
While replying in Rajya Sabha on Monday to a debate on the President’s address, PM Modi assured the farmers that Mandis will be modernised, saying “Not just this, MSP was there, it is there and will remain.”
“We urge those sitting on the agitation that even though it is their right to agitate, the way the old people are sitting there, is not right.
“They (agitators) should be taken back. They should end the agitation and we will together find a solution as all doors are open for dialogue. From this House, I again invite them for dialogue,” Modi said while appealing to farmers to end their agitation.
Farmer leader Abhimanyu Kohar, who is also a member of Samkyukta Kisan Morcha, said that the government has already said “hundreds of times” that the MSP will not go anywhere and it will remain in place.
“If the government is claiming that MSP will remain, why doesn’t it provide a legal guarantee on the minimum support price for our crops,” Kohar told PTI.
He said that the farmer unions are ready to resume talks with the government, but there should be a formal invitation.
“Any issue can be resolved through proper dialogue. We are ready in-principle to resume talks,” the farmer leader.
In his speech, Modi slammed the mushrooming of a new breed of ‘andolan-jivi’ — professional protestors — who are seen at every agitation. These “parasites feast on every agitation,” he said.
“Agitation has an important role in democracy. People have a right to oppose the government’s wrong policies,” Kakka said, referring to the remarks by the prime minister.
Sukhdev Singh, Punjab general secretary of BKU Ekta Ugrahan, sought to know why the government is not ensuring a legal guarantee on MSP for crops and alleged that it is trying to divert the issue.
Farmer leader Baldev Singh also said that government should repeal these farm laws and provide a legal guarantee on MSP for farmers’ crops.
Earlier in the day, farmer leader Rakesh Tikait said business over hunger will not be allowed in the country.
“There will not be any business over hunger in the country. If hunger goes up, the price of crops will be decided accordingly. Those who wish to do business over hunger will be driven out of the country,” Tikait told reporters at the Ghazipur protest site.
To press their demands, protesting unions held a nationwide ‘chakka jam’ last week, during which national and state highways were blocked in Punjab, Haryana and other parts of the country.