The Centre should take the farmers' agitation "very seriously" and there should be a dialogue between the two sides, NCP supremo Sharad Pawar said on Monday, two days before another round of talks was scheduled to take place between the government and farmers. Pawar, a former Union agriculture minister, said it is a matter of concern that farmers are protesting on the roads in the biting cold amid a deadlock with the Centre on the new contentious agri laws.
Talking to reporters after meeting CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury, Pawar said, "The government should take the farmers' agitation very seriously... there should be a dialogue. Farmers are protesting out in the open on the roads in shivering cold, it is a matter of concern for all of us." Suggesting that the agitation is purely a non-political farmers' movement, Pawar said from the very first day the farmers have made it clear that they don't want to associate this movement with any political outfit. After the meeting, Yechury said, "I met Sharad Pawar. It was a courtesy call. We did discuss the farmers' agitation. While the opposition parties are concerned about the situation, we will wait for the outcome of their meeting on December 30 and then decide our way forward".
It has been over a month now that thousands of farmers, especially from Punjab, Haryana and parts of Uttar Pradesh, are camping at Delhi's borders seeking repeal of the three farm laws enacted in September by the Centre. They have threatened to intensify their stir in the coming days if their demands are not fulfilled. The government has invited 40 protesting farmer unions on December 30 for the next round of talks on all relevant issues to find a "logical solution" to the current impasse over the farm laws.
The government's invite followed a proposal made by the unions last week to hold the talks on Tuesday, December 29, on agendas including modalities for the repeal of the three new laws. So far, five rounds of formal talks held between the Centre and 40 protesting farmer unions have remained inconclusive. The last round of talks was held on December 5, while the sixth round of talks originally scheduled for December 9 was called off a day after an informal meeting of Home Minister Amit Shah with some union leaders failed to reach any breakthrough.
The government has presented these laws as major agriculture reforms aimed at helping farmers and increasing their income, but the protesting unions fear that the new legislations have left them at the mercy of big corporates by weakening the MSP and mandi systems.