Ready for talks, but govt should send concrete proposal: Farmer unions


New Delhi, December 23

Asserting that the ball is in the Centre’s court, protesting farmer unions on Wednesday asked it to come up with a new concrete proposal for resumption of talks, even as Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar underscored that dialogue was the only way to reach a resolution and the government was committed to reforms in the farm sector.

As the stalemate between the government and the protesters, who are demanding a repeal of the three new agri laws, continued without any signs of a breakthrough, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is set to interact on Friday with farmers from six states during which they will share their experience on various initiatives taken by the Centre, in yet another outreach attempt.

The farmer leaders, who have rejected a proposal for amending the agri laws, said that they are waiting for the Centre to come to the table with an open mind, adding “if the government takes one step, farmers will take two”.

It was ‘Kisan Diwas’ (National Farmers’ Day), the birth anniversary of former prime minister Chaudhary Charan Singh, on Wednesday and opposition parties like the Congress, TMC, Shiv Sena, and the Left used the occasion to target the government, alleging that it was only interested in benefiting the corporates while the farmers were forced to stage protests on streets.

The BJP hit back, alleging that the farmers were being misled and provoked by the opposition parties which had exploited them when in power.

The government reiterated its commitment to the welfare of farmers and expressed the hope that the unions will withdraw their agitation.

From a ‘yagna’ in Sambhal, Uttar Pradesh to pray for the government’s “change of heart” on the agri laws to a letter purportedly written in blood by Bharatiya Kisan Union (Lok Shakti) chief Sheoraj Singh to Prime Minister Modi, various organisations and activists continued to express solidarity with the farmers who have been camping on Delhi’s borders since November 26 demanding a repeal of the laws.

Govt should come to table with ‘open mind’: Farmer leaders

Reading out a reply to the government’s talks offer during a press conference, farmer leaders said that they are ready for dialogue with an open mind but asked the government not to repeat the proposal of “meaningless” amendments that they have already rejected, Swaraj Abhiyan leader Yogendra Yadav said the government should stop writing “love letters” and instead come up with a “concrete” offer in writing for the talks.

After a meeting of union leaders that lasted for over three hours, farmer leader Shiv Kumar Kakka told reporters that the government should “abandon its stubbornness” and create a conducive environment for talks.

In a letter to Union Agriculture Joint Secretary Vivek Aggarwal, Sankyukt Kisan Morcha, an umbrella body of 40 agitating unions, alleged that the government is treating the farmers as its “political opponents”.

“Farmer unions are ready to hold talks with the government and that they are waiting for the government to come to the table with an open mind,” said Yadav, who is also a member of Morcha.

“We urge you (government) not to repeat those meaningless amendments that we have already rejected but come up with a concrete proposal in writing that can become an agenda for fresh talks,” Yadav said while reading out the reply sent to the Centre’s letter dated December 20.

Yadav alleged that government wants to project that the farmers are not ready to hold talks, adding that the ball is in the government’s court as peasants are ready for the same, but only after a concrete proposal.

In the letter to 40 union leaders, Joint Secretary Aggarwal had on Sunday asked protesting farmer leaders to specify their concerns over its earlier proposal of amendments in the laws and choose a convenient date for the next round of talks so that the ongoing agitation could end at the earliest.

The sixth round of talks on December 9 was cancelled following a deadlock with the farmer unions refusing to budge from their demand for repealing the three laws.

Several farmers visited ‘Kisan Ghat’ here on Wednesday morning to pay tributes to Chaudhary Charan Singh, who was known for his farmer-friendly policies.

Earlier in the day, Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar said the government will continue with reforms in the farm sector as it is committed to strengthening it.

Stressing that a solution can be reached only through dialogue, Tomar said, “History is witness to this fact. However old and strong the protest is, the end and the solution to a protest are reached through dialogue only.”

Farmer unions should discuss the government’s draft proposal and inform them if they want to add or delete anything, he said.

“I am fully hopeful that our farmer unions will discuss… If they give a date and time, the government is ready for the next round of talks… I am hopeful that we will move towards resolving the issue,” Tomar told reporters.

Enacted in September, the three farm laws have been projected by the central government as major reforms in the agriculture sector that will remove the middlemen and allow farmers to sell anywhere in the country.

However, the protesting farmers have expressed apprehension that the new laws would pave the way for eliminating the safety cushion of Minimum Support Price and do away with the ‘mandi’ system, leaving them at the mercy of big corporates.

The government has repeatedly asserted that the MSP and ‘mandi’ systems will stay and has accused the opposition of misleading the farmers. PTI


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