Farmer leader Balbir Rajewal blames Centre for not resuming talks

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Chandigarh, May 22 (PTI) Farmer leader Balbir Singh Rajewal on Saturday blamed the Union government for not resuming talks, claiming that farmers never denied having a dialogue over the central farm laws.

“No meeting has been called by the central government after January 22. The way ahead for talks has been stopped from the government side. We never refused to hold talks,” said Rajewal while addressing the media here.

He added a letter has also been written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi for resumption of talks.

The Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM), an umbrella body of over 40 protesting farmer unions and which is spearheading the protests, on Friday had written to the prime minister, urging resumption of talks over the three farm laws they have been agitating against at Delhi borders since November last year.

Several rounds of talks between farmers and the government have failed to break the deadlock over the three central laws.

A government panel had met farmer leaders on January 22. There have been no talks between the two sides since January 26 when the farmers'' tractor rally in the national capital turned violent.

Rajewal on Saturday warned the central government that they would hold campaigns as they did during the West Bengal assembly polls against it in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand.

He further said a national convention of all farmers' bodies would be organised to further intensify their struggle. A date in this regard, however, could not be finalised because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Rajewal, who is the president of the Bhartiya Kisan Union (Rajewal) faction, said May 26 would be observed as “black day” to mark six months of their protest at Delhi borders.

On this day, people should raise black flags at their homes, shops, industries and tractors to protest against the farm laws. In addition to it, effigies of the prime minister will also be burnt on May 26, he said.

Rajewal also accused the BJP-led government in Haryana of trying to defame the ongoing farmers' protest at Delhi borders by claiming that it could spread the COVID-19 infection.

The farmer leader said they have made necessary arrangements for protection against the infection at the protest sites –Tikri and Singhu borders.

Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar on May 13 had urged farmers to suspend their stir amid the grim COVID-19 situation, claiming that their movements to and from 'dharna' sites were spreading the infection in villages.

Rajewal said they have arranged 10 oxygen cylinders at a hospital near the protest site.

“We are giving 'kadha' (a drink to boost immunity) to each protester. We also distribute Vitamin A, C, D and other medicines,” he said.

Rajewal rued that nobody till now came to vaccinate farmers at Tikri and Singhu despite the Haryana's Sonipat administration having been requested for it over 20 days ago.

Farmers have been camping at Delhi’s borders since November 2020 demanding that the Farmers' Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020, Farmers' (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020 and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020 be rolled back and a new law made to guarantee minimum support price for crops.

The government, however, has maintained the three central laws are pro-farmer. PTI CHS VSD RAX RAX

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