Ready for talks but govt should send concrete proposal instead of 'love letters', say protesting farmer unions

·4-min read

New Delhi, Dec 23 (PTI) Hardening their position, protesting farmer unions on Wednesday asked the government not to repeat the proposal of 'meaningless' amendments that they have already rejected but come up with a 'concrete' offer in writing for the resumption of talks.

Reading out a reply to the government's talks offer during a press conference, farmers leaders said that they are ready for dialogue with an open mind if they get a concrete proposal, but made it clear they will not accept anything less than a complete repeal of the three agriculture laws and legal guarantee for Minimum Support Price (MSP).

Swaraj Abhiyan leader Yogendra Yadav said that if the government takes one step, farmers will take two, and asked it to stop writing 'love letters'.

All India Kisan Sabha leader Hannan Molla alleged that the government wanted to tire out the farmers out so that the protest would end.

In a letter to Union Agriculture Joint Secretary Vivek Aggarwal, Sankyukt Kisan Morcha, an umbrella body of 40 unions protesting at several Delhi border points for the last 27 days, alleged that the government is treating the farmers as its 'political opponents'.

'We have already told Home Minister Amit Shah that protesting farmers will not accept amendments,' farmer leader Shiv Kumar Kakka told reporters, after a meeting of union leaders that lasted for over three hours.

'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.

He alleged that the Union government is holding parallel talks with farmer unions that have no relation with the protest and termed it as an attempt to derail the ongoing agitation against the three farm laws.

'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.

'We are surprised that the government is not able to understand our basic objections. Representatives of farmers have demanded a complete repeal of these farm laws...but the government wants to cleverly project our demands for amendments.

'In our previous talks, we have clearly told the government that they don't want amendments,' Morcha said in its letter.

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.

Kakka said that the government should 'abandon its stubbornness' and accept the demands of farmers, adding that the Centre should create a conducive environment for talks.

Molla alleged that the government has been playing to the gallery.

In a 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.

During the day, farmers observed 'Kisan Diwas' --- the birth anniversary of former prime minister Chaudhary Charan Singh, by urging people to skip one time meal to express solidarity with their agitation.

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

To mark Kisan Diwas, protesting farmers at Ghazipur border held a 'havan'.

Earlier, Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar said the government will continue with reforms in the farm sector as they are still due in many areas, even as he reiterated his hope that protesting farmers will soon come forward to resume their dialogue with the Centre to resolve their concerns over three new laws.

The minister said any agitation can be resolved only through dialogue as has been the case always in history and urged the protesting unions to fix a date and time for the next round of talks.

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 GVS BUN RT