Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar on Wednesday said that the Centre was ready to hold talks with the protesting farmers if they suggested a convenient time and date of their choice, adding that they should tell the government what they wanted to “add and subtract” from its proposal related to the contentious agricultural laws, ANI reported.
Tomar expressed hope that the standoff over the farm laws will be resolved soon. “I’m hopeful that farmers’ unions will discuss our request [of holding the talks],” he added. “I hope they will give us a date and we will find resolutions.”
The agriculture minister urged farmer unions to understand the intention behind the laws and discuss their objections with the government. “History is witness that every revolution has culminated in talks.” he said. We have a democracy.”
Earlier in the day, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh had assured the farmers that the Narendra Modi-led government will not hurt them. He added that the government was holding talks with the farmers with “full sensitivity”.
Meanwhile, the Prime Minister’s Office announced that he will on Friday release over Rs 18,000 crores to more than 9 crore farming families under the Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi. Modi will also speak to farmers from six states via video conferencing.
Tens of thousands of farmers, mostly from Punjab and Haryana, have been protesting at key entry points to Delhi for 27 straight days against the laws, withstanding temperatures dropping to two to three degrees Celsius. On December 9, they had rejected the Centre’s written proposal, detailing the amendments it was willing to make to the three agriculture laws. A section of the farmer groups had said they would meet on Tuesday to discuss the Centre’s latter offer on a dialogue.
On Wednesday, as the protestors marked the birth anniversary of former Prime Minister and farmers’ leader Chaudhary Charan Singh, Bharatiya Kisan Union (Lok Shakti) chief Sheoraj Singh wrote a letter in blood to Modi and demanded that the three laws be repealed, PTI reported. The group has been camping at the Dalit Prerna Sthal in Noida.
BKU spokesperson Shailesh Kumar Giri said the letter was handed over to the Noida administration, and the officials assured the group that it would be forwarded to the Prime Minister’s Office.
The farmers fear the agricultural reforms will weaken the minimum support price mechanism under which the government buys agricultural produce, will lead to the deregulation of crop-pricing, deny them fair remuneration for their produce and leave them at the mercy of corporations.
The government, on the other hand, maintains that the new laws will give farmers more options in selling their produce, lead to better pricing, and free them from unfair monopolies. It has refused to repeal the reform-oriented laws. The negotiations between farmers’ groups and the Centre has not progressed since the last meeting, scheduled to be held on December 9, was cancelled.