Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Monday said the government was ready for talks with the farmers protesting against the three agricultural laws, PTI reported. She said that discussions were the only way forward.
“We can understand why farmers are sitting at the border,” Sitharaman said in a reply to a query during her 2021 Union Budget speech. “If any farmer has any question, Agriculture Minister [Narendra Singh Tomar] has never denied opportunities for talk.”
She said that Tomar has held several rounds of discussions with the farmers and asked them to come up with clause by clause suggestions on all the three legislations. “Therefore, I think, discussion is the only solution,” Sitharaman said. “The government is open for discussion.” She also pointed out that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had said that the offer to suspend farm laws for 1.5 years was still on the table.
Meanwhile, Tomar said the government was committed to working in the interest of the farmers, reported ANI. “Every year the focus is not only on increased budget allocation, but also the implementation of schemes,” he said.
The agriculture minister also appealed to parties not to politicise every matter. “Those who play politics on every matter meet the same fate as that of opposing parties presently,” he said.
Minister of State for Agriculture Kailash Choudhary also hit out at the opposition parties, saying that some people were adding fuel to the fire for their narrow political gains. Choudhary, however, added that he believes farmers will understand this.
“I think they [farmers’ unions] will definitely compare and see what has been the allocation now and during the UPA [United Progressive Alliance] regime,” he said, referring to the government’s 2021 Union Budget.
He reiterated that solutions will come from discussions only. “Definitely the government has kept the doors open,” Choudhary said. “Definitely, the solution will emerge if we sit and talk. I have full faith.”
Bharatiya Kisan Union leader Rakesh Tikait has also said the government should find a solution through dialogues. “We are ready for discussions,” he said. “The government should talk to the 40-member committee of the 40 organisations of the Kisan Morcha.”
Tens of thousands of farmers have been camping out on the outskirts of Delhi in the intense cold for over two months. 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.