After PM's invite, farmer leaders say ready for talks, ask govt to choose date

·4-min read

Farmer unions agitating against the three agri laws on Monday asked the government to fix a date for the next round of talks, soon after Prime Minister Narendra Modi urged them to end their stir and invited them to resume the dialogue.

They, however, objected to Prime Minister Modi's remarks in Rajya Sabha that a new 'breed' of agitators called 'andolan jivi' has emerged in the country, and said that agitation has an important role in a 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.

NEW DELHI, INDIA - FEBRUARY 3:  Demonstrators walking past graffiti that reads "Kisan Morcha" at the Ghazipur border protest site on February 3, 2021 in New Delhi, India. The farmers protest at the Singhu, Tikri and Ghazipur borders against the farm laws entered the 68th day on Sunday. On Republic Day, farmer groups broke through barricades, clashed with the Delhi Police and stormed the Red Fort, hoisting the Nishan Sahib, the flag of the Sikhs, on its ramparts. An officer said that the security and barricading was tightened following the conflict between the farmers and local residents witnessed on Friday and Saturday over the issue of clearing the roads, and the violence at the Red Fort and other places in Delhi on January 26. (Photo by Sanchit Khanna/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)
NEW DELHI, INDIA - FEBRUARY 3: Demonstrators walking past graffiti that reads "Kisan Morcha" at the Ghazipur border protest site on February 3, 2021 in New Delhi, India. The farmers protest at the Singhu, Tikri and Ghazipur borders against the farm laws entered the 68th day on Sunday. On Republic Day, farmer groups broke through barricades, clashed with the Delhi Police and stormed the Red Fort, hoisting the Nishan Sahib, the flag of the Sikhs, on its ramparts. An officer said that the security and barricading was tightened following the conflict between the farmers and local residents witnessed on Friday and Saturday over the issue of clearing the roads, and the violence at the Red Fort and other places in Delhi on January 26. (Photo by Sanchit Khanna/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)

'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.

BHIWANI, INDIA - FEBRUARY 7: BKU leaders Balbir Singh Rajewal Rakesh Tikait and Dharshan Pal Singh during a Mahapanchayat on February 7, 2021 in Bhiwani, India. The meeting was organised by khaps of the states Charkhi Dadri district, and was attended by farmers, farm workers and even those who do not work in the farming sector. (Photo by Manoj Dhaka/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)
BHIWANI, INDIA - FEBRUARY 7: BKU leaders Balbir Singh Rajewal Rakesh Tikait and Dharshan Pal Singh during a Mahapanchayat on February 7, 2021 in Bhiwani, India. The meeting was organised by khaps of the states Charkhi Dadri district, and was attended by farmers, farm workers and even those who do not work in the farming sector. (Photo by Manoj Dhaka/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)

'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.

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