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Ready for talks, won't abandon protest, says Samyukt Kisan Morcha

Minister of Agriculture & Farmers Welfare, Narendra Singh Tomar. File   | Photo Credit: SHIV KUMAR PUSHPAKAR

Protesting farm unions are ready to resume talks with the government, but will not accept any pre-condition to abandon their agitation, the Samyukt Kisan Morcha said on Sunday. They were responding to Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar, who cited the spike in COVID-19 cases and appealed to farmers to withdraw their protest, saying that the government is ready to resume talks whenever they come with a proposal.

Thousands of farmers have been protesting on the borders of Delhi for almost five months, demanding the repeal of three Central farm reform laws and asking for a legal guarantee that their crops will be bought at minimum support prices.

COVID-19 cases have surged this week, with a record 1.45 lakh people testing positive on Saturday. “Now in the second wave of pandemic, the entire nation and the world is following COVID-19 protocols. Even protesting farmers should follow the protocols. Their life is important for us,” said Mr. Tomar, in a video message posted on his Twitter account on Saturday evening.

“In the current COVID-19 situation, I urge them to call off their protest. The government is ready for a discussion whenever they come with a proposal," the Minister added.

“The Agriculture minister asked farmers to postpone the protest. SKM understands that this statement of the Minister of Agriculture is not a suggestion but a condition that talks can take place after vacating the protest sites,” said SKM leader Darshan Pal, in a statement on Sunday. “Farmers have never refused to talk to the government, the government should send a proposal for talks, the farmer leaders are ready for talks,” he added.

On Sunday morning, farm unions concluded a 24-hour blockade of the KMP Expressway surrounding the national capital. Their next major protest action is on B.R. Ambedkar’s birth anniversary on Wednesday which they plan to observe as Save the Constitution Day. In a Sunday afternoon meeting of the Sarvjatiya Sarvakhap Panchayat, a gathering of Haryana village or community leaders, the SKM joined in plans to block Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar’s event to unveil an Ambedkar statue.

Already, eleven rounds of talks between the unions and Central Ministers have failed to break the impasse, and negotiations broke down on January 22, after the farmers refused the government’s offer to suspend implementation of the laws for one and a half years.

“There is no dissatisfaction in the minds of farmers,” Mr. Tomar tweeted, noting that a number of farmer organisations have expressed support for the laws. “The government is ready to talk to the farmers unions which are against these agrarian reform bills.  I will urge the farmers' organizations to postpone their agitation. If they come for talks, the government is ready to talk to them,” he said.

Our agenda remains same: Tikait

“The talks will start from the point where they were left on January 22. Our agenda remains the same. We will talk about repealing of the three farm laws and a new law on the MSP,” said Mr Tikait.

He appealed to the “Dalit brothers” to participate in the birth anniversary programme of Bhimrao Ambedkar in large numbers at the Ghazipur protest site. “The peaceful blockade at the KMP Expressway has proved that the farmers had not gone back anywhere. They are busy with their farms but would return to Delhi whenever they are called,” he said.

(With inputs from our Ghaziabad Special Correspondent)

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Printable version | May 19, 2021 7:08:29 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/citing-covid-19-surge-agriculture-minister-urges-farm-unions-to-call-off-protest/article34294594.ece

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