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Farmers' protests: All eyes on Modi’s reply in Rajya Sabha as government says ready to resume talks

While the government has said it is open to discussions, the farmers' unions have asserted that the talks could resume only when the cases filed by the police are withdrawn.

Published: 08th February 2021 03:30 AM  |   Last Updated: 08th February 2021 09:20 AM   |  A+A-

Farmers during their ongoing protest against Centres farm laws at Ghazipur border in New Delhi on Sunday Feb. 7 2021. (Photo | Parveen Negi/EPS)

By Express News Service

NEW DELHI:  Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s reply to the discussion on the Motion of Thanks in the Rajya Sabha on Monday will be keenly watched for possible cues of the government’s course of action in the ongoing farmers’ agitation.

His reply in the Lok Sabha on the contentious agriculture laws is likely to take place on Tuesday. 

“The plank of the international conspiracy against the country gives the BJP enough talking points in the election-bound states. That may play out in the reply to the motion of thanks by the PM,” sources said.

While the government has said it is open to discussions, the farmers' unions have asserted that the talks could resume only when the cases filed by the police for the Republic Day violence are withdrawn.

At the same time, Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar in his intervention during the discussion on the Motion of Thanks in the Rajya Sabha dropped enough hints of the government not yielding to the demands of the repeal of the laws. 

The Lok Sabha is yet to see discussion on the motion of due to the unrelenting protests by the Opposition, particularly the Congress, which has been insisting on a separate discussion on the farmers’ protests.

Tomar on Sunday said the ongoing farmers' protest against the Centre's three new farm laws is limited to a certain area, and expressed hope to break the deadlock over the issue soon.

Talking to reporters in Madhya Pradesh's Gwalior city, Tomar also accused the opposition Congress of playing politics over the farmers' agitation.

"The farmers' agitation is limited to a certain area. The government is ready for talks with the protesting farmers, and I hope we will be able to break the deadlock very soon, Tomar said.

Asked about Congress's demand for a repeal of three new farm laws and other allegations of the opposition, he said the Congress has no right to speak on farmers' issues.

"Why the Congress did not do anything for farmers when it was in power? The Congress's manifesto for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections had also promised similar reforms, but it (party) has now taken a turnaround," he said.

The Congress will not be successful in doing politics in the name of farmers, Tomar asserted.

Asked about senior Congress leader Digvijaya Singh's allegation that Tomar doesn't know anything about farming, the minister said, "Don't take him seriously. Even the Congress doesn't take him seriously."

Thousands of farmers, mainly from Haryana, Punjab and western Uttar Pradesh, have been protesting at Delhi's border points, demanding a rollback of three new farm laws.

The Centre in September last year enacted the Farmers' Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020, the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020 and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020.

Tomar reached his hometown Gwalior on Sunday morning to take part in a meeting on Gwalior's 'vision document', pertaining to the city's development.

Union Minister Piyush Goyal on Sunday said the government is ready to resume talks with the farmers protesting the new farm laws but asserted that despite repeated proposals, the protesters have not come up with any "concrete suggestion" so far.

Reiterating Prime Minister Narendra Modi's appeal to farmer unions that the government was "just a phone away" to discuss any issues raised by them, Goyal said "but for that somebody at least has to make call so that we can move forward."

"This government is sensitive towards farmers' issues. The PM and the government is ready to discuss it with them. The PM even said he was just a phone call away, but somebody at least has to call so that we can move forward," the minister said during a press conference here.

He added that the farmers were being misled on a few issues and some people have been successful at confusing them.

"We even proposed to make the laws stricter through change of wordings, we proposed to suspend the laws for 18 months. We keep reading in news 'tareekh par tareekh' (date after date) but it should be 'prastav par prastav' (proposal after proposal). But we are yet to hear a concrete suggestion from the farmers," said Goyal, who is also the minister of Railways and Commerce and Industry.

The government has held 11 rounds of talks with farmer leaders, the last one being held on January 22 before the tractor parade on January 26 which ended in violent clashes between the police and the protestors.

The minister also condemned the act of hoisting a religious flag at the Red Fort during the tractor parade on Republic Day, calling it "unfortunate", while insisting that the government was ready to move past that and find a solution through dialogue.

He added that when the government brings a bill it is for the benefit of the people and if anyone has issues with it, they should bring it up instead of depriving others of it.

"There are crores of farmers in India, these laws will benefit them, especially the small farmers. We have looked into how to improve their income. We understand these will only benefit the farmer, if you have issues we can discuss but why deprive the rest of them from its benefits," the minister added.

(With PTI Inputs)



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