Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday chaired an all-party meet ahead of the Budget Session of Parliament and said that the Centre stands by its offer made to farmers in connection with the farm laws, reported the Hindustan Times.
The government had on January 20 offered to suspend the implementation of the farm laws for one-and-a-half-years. The farmers, however, had remained adamant in their demand for a complete repeal of the legislations. Later on January 22, Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar said the negotiations on the laws can continue only if the farmers agreed to the Centre’s proposal.
During Saturday’s all-party meeting, Union Minister Pralhad Joshi said the Centre was approaching the farm laws matter with an open mind, NDTV reported. “He [the Prime Minister] reiterated what [Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh] Tomarji said – that he is phone call away for talks,” Joshi said.
The prime minister also asked the Opposition parties to ensure the smooth functioning of the House. Sixteen Opposition parties, including the Congress, had boycotted President Ram Nath Kovind’s address to a joint sitting of both Houses of Parliament on the first day of the Budget session on Friday in solidarity with the farmers. This was the second consecutive year when the Opposition parties boycotted the address.
Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad called the boycott “really unfortunate”, while Joshi urged the parties to respect the president’s office.
Not all Opposition MPs, however, marked their protest by boycotting the president’s speech. Congress leader Ravneet Singh Bittu and the Rashtriya Loktantrik Party founder Hanuman Beniwal shouted slogans in the House. Bittu later said he broke ranks to express his solidarity with the farmers.
The last Parliament session had witnessed chaos as Opposition MPs tore copies of the farm laws to express solidarity with the agitating farmers.
At the meeting, Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad, Trinamool Congress’ Sudip Bandyopadhyay, Shiv Sena MP Vinayak Raut and Shiromani Akali Dal leader Balwinder Singh Bhunder spoke at length on farmers’ agitation, according to ANI. Janata Dal (United) supported the laws.
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, Joshi and Leader of the Rajya Sabha Thawarchand Gehlot were also present in the meeting, according to The Tribune.
Tens of thousands of farmers had been camping out on the outskirts of Delhi in the intense cold for over two months before entering the city on Tuesday. The farmers are demanding the repeal of three agricultural laws passed in September. They believe that the new laws undermine their livelihood and open the path for the corporate sector to dominate the agricultural sector.
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.