The government on Monday invited the protesting farmer unions for talks on December 30 to end the impasse over the three new agriculture laws. The previous five rounds of talks between the government and the farmers have failed to break the deadlock over the contentious legislations, with the agitation now entering its second month.
The Centre has written to 40 protesting farmer unions and invited them for the next round of discussions on December 30, 2pm at Vigyan Bhawan. It said that it is committed to find a logical solution to all relevant issues raised by the farmers.
The government’s response came two days after the farmers wrote to the Centre and expressed willingness to hold discussions on four broad issues. The farmers had offered to hold the meeting on December 29.
In its letter today, the government agreed to hold discussions on the issue of Minimum Support Price as well as legislations related to stubble burning and the Electricity Amendment Bill.
As the month-long deadlock continues, the government today maintained that the protesting farmers have been misled about the new laws.
Union agriculture minister Narendra Singh Tomar on Monday said a “wall of lies” has been spread in a “planned manner” among farmers, but it will not last long and protesting peasants will soon realise the truth.
The minister reiterated he remains hopeful to find an early solution to end the impasse.
Niti Aayog vice chairman Rajiv Kumar said that “false narratives” about the laws are doing significant harm to the interest of farmers as well as the economy in general.
He also expressed his disappointment at some economists changing their stance on the new legislations.
“Any argument that these measures (the Centre’s new farm laws) will open the farmers for exploitation by large corporates is completely false because the government has assured Minimum Support Price (MSP) to all the farmers on a range of crops,” he told PTI in an interview.
He emphasised that continued negotiations with protesting farmers is of course the way forward.
Authorities in Punjab are investigating whether the protesting farmers were disrupting power supply to hundreds of telecom towers, a state official said on Monday.
“We have told the police to track all those involved in sabotaging the infrastructure,” a senior official in the Punjab government told Reuters on condition of anonymity.
A senior Punjab state police official said the power supply was disrupted to several telecom towers in the state, mainly ones owned by Jio, the telecommunications arm of Reliance Industries.
So far, farmers protesting against the Centre’s agri laws have allegedly either damaged or snapped power lines of over 1,330 telecom towers in the state.
Representatives of around 25 farmer organisations on Monday gave a memorandum to Tomar in support of the new farm laws.
“Today representatives from different farmers organizations from all over the country gave memorandum in support of the new farm bills and said these are in the interest of farmers and should not be taken back. They also thanked Prime Minister Narendra Modi,” Tomar said on Twitter.
Social activist Anna Hazare has threatened to go on a hunger strike if his demands on issues concerning farmers are not met by the government by the end of January next year. He said it would be his “last protest”.
Speaking to reporters in his Ralegaon Siddhi village in Ahmednagar district of Maharashtra, Hazare on Sunday said had had been holding protests for cultivators since the last three years, but the government has done nothing to resolve the issues.
“The government is just giving empty promises due to which I do not have any trust left (in the government) … Let’s see, what action the Centre takes on my demands. They have sought time for a month, so I have given them time till January-end. If my demands are not met, I will resume my huger strike protest. This would be my last protest,” the 83-year-old said.
Meanwhile, the opposition parties across India continued to keep up the pressure on the government to repeal the three laws.
Backing the farmers protesting in Delhi, Makkal Needhi Maiam (MNM) founder Kamal Haasan on Monday said any country that “does not respect agriculture will fall.”
“A country that does not respect agriculture will fall. I believe that should not happen to our country. They (farmers) are the annadata (providers of food),” Haasan said.
Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra said the Centre should listen to the protesting farmers and take back the new laws.
“Saying that farmers’ protest is a political conspiracy, it is totally wrong, It is a sin to use the kind of words they are using for farmers. Government is answerable to farmers. The government should listen to them and take back the laws,” she said.
West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee too expressed solidarity with the farmers and said the Centre must withdraw the “draconian” agriculture laws.
Madhya Pradesh Congress MLAs led by state unit chief Kamal Nath staged a silent protest on Monday in front of Mahatma Gandhi’s statue in the Assembly premises here.
Kerala governor Arif Mohammed Khan on Monday gave his assent for convening the state assembly for a one-day special session on December 31 to discuss and pass a resolution against the farm laws.
The CPM-led LDF government had sent a proposal to the governor to convene the assembly after he had turned down an earlier recommendation.
The session would be for a duration of one hour and commence at 9am, assembly sources said.
PM Modi flags off 100th ‘Kisan Rail’
As the farmers protest continues on the outskirts of the national capital, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday flagged off the 100th “Kisan Rail” from Sangola in Maharashtra to Shalimar in West Bengal via video-conferencing.
While dedicating the facility to the farmers, the Prime Minister said his government will continue to work to strengthen the cultivators and agriculture sector with full force and dedication.
“Kisan Rail has hugely strengthened small and marginal farmers who account for 80 per cent of the peasantry in country,” he said.( TOI )