Union agriculture minister Narendra Singh Tomar on Sunday again urged the protesting farm leaders to give up their “stubborn” stand on the new farm laws and come for a clause by clause discussion.
However, the farmers are stuck on their demand of repealing the new laws and said they are prepared to protest “till May 2024”. The next Lok Sabha elections in the country will be due around April-May 2024.
Addressing reporters in Madhya Pradesh, Tomar today said the farmers should stop being stubborn since the Supreme Court has stayed the implementation of the three laws.
“The government wants farmer leaders to come for clause by clause discussion at the next meeting on January 19. Except for the demand of repealing the laws, the government is ready to consider seriously and with an open heart other alternatives,” he said.
Tomar, who left for his constituency by Hazur Sahib Nanded-Amritsar Superfast Express, was seen sharing langar from co-passengers of Sikh community – a gesture which comes amid the ongoing protests by farmers from Punjab against the laws.
Tomar said the government offered certain concessions, but the farmer leaders have not shown flexibility and were constantly demanding a repeal of the laws.
He reiterated that the government makes laws for the entire country, adding that many farmers, experts and other stakeholders have supported the laws.
Meanwhile. Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) leader Rakesh Tikait said that the farmers are prepared to protest against the new farm laws “till May 2024”. He termed the ongoing agitation at the Delhi borders an “ideological revolution”.
Addressing a press conference in Nagpur, Tikait said they want a legal guarantee on Minimum Support Price (MSP).
Asked how long the farmers are planning to sit in protest, Tikait said, “We are prepared to sit in protest till May 2024 … our demand is that the three laws be taken back and the government provide a legal guarantee on the MSP.”
Dismissing allegations that the protest was being fuelled by “rich farmers”, Tikait said people from villages and various outfits have joined the protest.
“This is an ideological revolution of farmers started from Delhi and will not fail. Farmers from villages do not want us to come back until the three farm bills are withdrawn,” he said.
“The government is adamant on its stance of not withdrawing the bills and this agitation will continue for long,” Tikait added.
‘Don’t want to appear before SC panel’
The Supreme Court on January 11 had stayed the implementation of the three laws till further orders and appointed a four-member panel to resolve the impasse.
Tikait welcomed the SC’s decision but said the committee formed by the apex court has members who “supported” the farm bills.
“We do not want to go before the committee formed by the court. The government has also said that the government and farmers will find solution on this issue,” he said.
Tikait also said the opposition parties in the country were weak and that is why farmers had to start this agitation against the Centre’s new laws.
On the National Investigation Agency’s (NIA) notices to some people supporting the farmers’ protest, he said, “Those who want to be part of the agitation must be ready for court cases, imprisonment and sealing of property.”
Farmers have been protesting near Delhi since November 26, 2020, demanding scrapping of the three new farm laws. The Centre has maintained the the laws are 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 the MSP and do away with the mandi system, leaving them at the mercy of big corporates.
So far, the nine rounds of formal talks between the Centre and 41 farmer unions have failed to yield any concrete results to end the long-running protest at Delhi’s borders as the latter have stuck to their main demand of a complete repeal of the three laws.
(With inputs from PTI)