08 Feb 2021: Protesting farmer unions ask government to fix date for talks
Farmer unions protesting against new agricultural reforms have asked the government to fix a date for the next round of talks to resolve the protests.
Earlier on Monday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had invited union leaders to continue dialogue.
Notably, 11 rounds of talks have previously fallen through as the leaders rejected the government's proposal to suspend the contentious laws for 18 months.
Farmers: Never refused to hold talks with government: Shiv Kumar Kakka
Asking the government to set a date and time for the meeting, farmer leader Shiv Kumar Kakka told PTI, "We've never refused to hold talks with the government. Whenever it has called us for dialogue, we held discussions with Union Ministers. We're ready for talks with them."
Kakka is a senior member of the Samkyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM) which has been leading the protest.
Farmers: Ready in-principle to resume talks: Abhimanyu Kohar
Farmer leader and SKM member Abhimanyu Kohar asked for a formal invitation from the government for talks saying, "We are ready in-principle to resume talks."
Kohar reiterated the farmers' demand for a legal guarantee on Minimum Support Price (MSP).
Farmer leader Baldev Singh also restated the farmers' demand for a legal guarantee on MSP and a complete rollback of the laws.
Fact: 'Those who do business over hunger will be driven out'
Earlier in the day, farmer leader Rakesh Tikait had told reporters at the Ghazipur protest site, "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."
Government: Speaking in Parliament, Modi invited farmers for talks
Speaking in the Rajya Sabha on Monday, PM Modi assured that mandis will be modernized and the MSP-based procurement system will continue.
He urged those protesting against the laws to return home and invited farmer leaders to continue talks.
In a controversial remark, he also said that a new "breed" of agitators-"andolan jivi" (professional protesters)—has emerged in India.
Fact: Modi's 'andolan jivi' comment invites backlash
On Modi's "andolan jivi" comment, protesters argued that an agitation has an important role in a democracy. Modi had said that these "parasites feast on every agitation." Kakka responded to the PM's comments saying, "People have a right to oppose the government's wrong policies."
Protest: Farmers protesting against three laws passed last September
The protesting farmers have blocked several of Delhi's borders including Singhu, Chilla, Tikri, Ghazipur, and the Haryana-Rajasthan border.
The farmers have been protesting against the Farmers' Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020; the Farmers Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and farm Services Act 2020; and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020.
The laws were passed in September last year.
Protest: Protesters have camped at Delhi's borders since November
Over several months, the farmers' agitation has only become more intense.
The protests intensified in November-end as thousands of farmers from several states reached Delhi, camping at the city's borders.
Among other issues, farmers mainly fear that by allowing trade outside APMC mandis, the laws will weaken the mandis and they would be deprived of MSPs, leaving them vulnerable to exploitation by corporations.
Recent news: Government's efforts to resolve protests have fallen through
The central government has held 11 rounds of talks with farmer leaders and has proposed to suspend the laws for 18 months.
However, the farmers remain firm on their demand for a complete rollback of all three laws.
Last Saturday, the farmers had staged a "chakka jam" (nationwide blockade), blocking national and state highways across various parts of the country in protest.