January 20, 2021 5:19:15 am
ALL PROVISIONS in the farm laws are in the interests of the farmers and critics have not studied them properly, Prime Minister Narendra Modi told a church delegation that met him on Tuesday. If someone can convince him otherwise, he could consider withdrawing them, the Prime Minister is learnt to have told them.
A delegation of Cardinals – Mar George Cardinal Alencherry (Major Archbishop of the Syro-Malabar Church), Cardinal Oswald Gracias, (Archbishop of Bombay and President of CBCI), and His Beatitude Baselios Cardinal Cleemis (Major Archbishop-Catholicos of the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church) – met Modi and appealed to him to resolve the farmers issue taking the protesters concerns into account.
“The Prime Minister told us that the provisions in the three laws are in the interests of the farmers. According to him, no one has studied the Bills before criticising them. His concern was that everyone is reading about the protests, but people do not go through the Bills,” Cardinal Cleemis told The Indian Express after the meeting.
Sources said the Prime Minister told the delegation that if they could convince him about the adverse impact of any of the farm laws, the government would consider withdrawing them.
“The Prime Minister also rejected the charge that there were no detailed discussions before the passage of the Bills. He said nine meetings were held with different stakeholders officially and unofficially discussions were held at least three times more,” Cardinal Cleemis said.
Modi also handed over a booklet on the laws to the cardinals during their meeting.
Farmers from Punjab and Haryana have been demanding the repeal of three farm laws, saying they threaten their livelihood and that they were in the interests of the corporates.
The Catholic church leaders also took up the issue of Father Stan Swamy, one of the 16 rights activists, lawyers, writers and academics arrested in the Bhima Koregaon case and charged with Maoist links with the Prime Minister. However, Modi said it was part of a probe by an investigative agency and his government has “limitations” in interfering in the issue. Stan Swami is currently lodged in a Mumbai jail.
The Cardinals wanted the Prime Minister to invite Pope Francis to India to which Modi apparently said “it is a matter which is in mind also”. Cardinal Cleemis said they also took up the issue of reservation for Dalit Christians and appealed to the Prime Minister to consider their case.
The Church leaders’ meeting assumes significance as it comes at a time when the BJP is trying to woo the Christian community in Kerala, a state that goes to poll later this year.
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