Union agriculture minister Narendra Singh Tomar urged farmer unions to end their protest which entered the 10th day on Saturday, requesting them to send senior citizens and children back home to protect them from the winter chill and possible Covid-19 infection.
The minister made the appeal after the fifth round of talks between the government and farmer leaders failed to end the deadlock. The farmers stuck to their demand of total repeal of the three new farm laws while the government offered to make amendments to certain parts of the legislations. The next round of negotiations will take place on Wednesday, a day after the Bharat Bandh called by the farmers.
“We wanted some firm suggestions from farmer leaders on some key issues, but couldn’t get those in today’s meeting. We will meet again on December 9. We have told them that the government will consider all their concerns and our efforts will be to find a solution," Tomar said. “It would have been easier if they had given those suggestions today itself. We will wait for their suggestions," he said.
“I want to request protesting farmers to give up their movement so that they don’t face inconvenience in this cold weather and citizens of Delhi can also live a life of convenience,” Tomar said. “Farmers should keep faith in the Narendra Modi government. I want to thank farmer unions for maintaining discipline… We request kisan unions to send elderly and children back home,” he added.
The representatives of thousands of agitating farmers, who are sitting on various borders of the national capital since November 26, said their protest will continue and their call for a ‘Bharat Bandh’ on December 8 that has also been supported by trade unions and various other organisations — a day before the sixth round of talks — would be observed with full force.
Farmers have threatened to intensify their agitation and block more roads leading to the national capital if the government does not accept their demands. The three farm laws have been presented by the 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 scrap the mandis, leaving them at the mercy of big corporates.
The Centre has maintained the MSP and mandi systems would continue and would be rather further improved and strengthened. At the meeting at Vigyan Bhawan, farmers’ representatives had their own food and tea, as they had done on Thursday during the previous round of talks, and at one point of time threatened to walk out of the discussions if the government was not ready to accept their main demand of repealing the three contentious laws.