Shiromani Akali Dal leader and former Union minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal on Thursday said the Centre has lost the trust of the entire farming community, and urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to talk to the protesting farmers, reported PTI. The Centre and the farmers are scheduled to meet on Friday for the eight rounds of talks even as protests continue along the borders of Delhi.
“It is strange that farmers are spending nights in [the] open during the chilling winters and even then their demands are falling on deaf ears,” she said in an interview to the news agency. Badal, who resigned from his post in the Modi-led Cabinet on September 18 over the new farm laws, said she went through a difficult time trying to change minds in the administration.
“...To avoid the situation which has arisen now and the protest, I kept pleading for months, whether it was in Cabinet meetings or in direct meetings with top leaders of the central government that please listen to farmers before bringing these three bills as they are ‘annadaatas [providers of food]’ of the country, otherwise it would lead to agitations and protests. But my all pleas fell on to deaf ears,” she said.
The former Union minister asked who would take responsibility for the deaths of protesting farmers. “Farmers are dying at the doorstep of the central government while protesting for their demands,” she said.
A day before the discussions with the farmers, Badal said that as several rounds of talks have failed to resolve the matter, the prime minister should directly speak to the protestors.
She also criticised the Congress-led Punjab government and Chief Minister Amarinder Singh and said he had failed to fulfil his responsibility as the guardian of the state. “Both the central and state governments are equal partners in this crime against farmers,” she added. “While farmers were sitting on dharna, the Chief Minister of Punjab was having fun in his farmhouse.”
On September 26, the Shiromani Akali Dal, one of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s oldest allies, pulled out of the National Democratic Alliance. Two days later, Badal had urged all Opposition parties to jointly fight for the farmers’ cause. On October 1, the former Union minister and her party colleagues were arrested during a protest against the farm laws.
Farm law protests
Tens of thousands of farmers, mostly from Punjab and Haryana, have been camping out on roads around the Delhi, for over 40 days, braving the cold and rain over the last few days. They insist that the government withdraw the laws and guarantee a minimum support price for their produce.
On Thursday morning, thousands of protestors took out a tractor rally. The farmers started their rally from protest sites, bordering Delhi at Singhu, Tikri and Ghazipur, and Rewasan in Haryana, to the Eastern and Western Peripheral Expressways. Farmers’ unions said that the rally was only a “rehearsal” ahead of another such march proposed on January 26, when they plan to move into the national Capital from different parts of Haryana, Punjab and Uttar Pradesh.
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. The law passed in September are meant to overhaul antiquated procurement procedures and open up the market, the government has claimed.
After seven rounds of talks between the Centre and farmer unions, the two sides havereached an agreement on the decriminalisation of stubble burning and safeguarding electricity subsidies – two of the four matters of contention. However, the deadlock continues on the two main demands of farmers – repeal of three farm laws and a legal guarantee for minimum support price system.