After PM’s invitation, farmer leaders are ready for talks, ask the government to choose a date

On Monday, farmer unions agitating against three agricultural laws asked the government to set a date for the next round of talks, soon after Prime Minister Narendra Modi urged them to end their agitation and they resumed negotiations.

However, he objected to Prime Minister Modi’s remarks in the Rajya Sabha that a new ‘breed’ of agitators has emerged in the country, adding that the movement has an important role in democracy.

Farmer leader Shiv Kumar Kakka, a senior member of the Samyukta Kisan Morcha who is leading the ongoing agitation, said that they are ready for the next round of talks and the government should tell them the date and time of the meeting.

Farmers entered the 68th day on the Singhu, Tikri and Ghazipur borders against farm laws. On Republic Day, peasant groups broke through barricades, collided with the Delhi Police and climbed the Red Fort, hoisting the Sikh flag, Nishan Sahib, at its ramparts. On January 26, security and barricading were tightened following clashes between farmers and local residents on the issue of clearing roads at the Red Fort and other places in Delhi, an official said.

‘We have never refused to negotiate with the government. Whenever it has called us for talks, we held discussions with Union Ministers. We are ready to negotiate with them (the government), ‘Kakka told the news agency.

Eleven rounds of talks have been held over the controversial agricultural laws, but the deadlock continues as farmers unions are adamant on their demands – repealing three laws and a legal guarantee for the minimum support price (MSP).

In the final round of negotiations, the government had offered to suspend the laws for 12–18 months, but the farmers unions declined it.

Thousands of agitating farmers from Punjab, Haryana and western Uttar Pradesh have been camping at Delhi’s three border points – Singhu, Tikri and Ghazipur for more than 70 days.

Responding to the debate on the President’s address in the Rajya Sabha on Monday, PM Modi assured the farmers that the mandis would be modernized, saying ‘not only this, the MSP was, is and will remain.’ ‘We urge the people sitting on the movement that even though it is their right to do this movement, the way the old people are sitting is not right.

‘They (agitators) should be withdrawn. They should end the movement and together we will find a solution because all the doors are open for dialogue. From this House, I invite them to talk again, ‘Modi said, appealing to the farmers to end their agitation.

Farmer leader Abhimanyu Kohar, who is also a member of the Samyukta Kisan Morcha, said that the government has already said ‘hundreds of times’ that the MSP will not go anywhere and it will remain unchanged.

Koha said, “If the government is claiming that the MSP will remain, then why does it not provide legal guarantee on the minimum support price of our crops.”

He said that the farmers union is ready to resume talks with the government, but there should be a formal invitation. ‘Any issue can be resolved through proper negotiation. We are ready to resume talks with the farmer leader.

In his speech, Modi threw mushrooms of a new breed of ‘Golan-Jivaji’ – professional protesters – who are seen on every movement. These ‘parasites feast on every movement,’ he said.

‘The movement has an important role in democracy. People have the right to protest the wrong policies of the government, ‘Kakka said, referring to the remarks made by the Prime Minister.

Sukhdev Singh, Punjab general secretary of BKU Ekta Utthan, tried to find out why the government was not providing legal guarantee on the MSP for crops and alleged that it was trying to twist the issue.