Even as the government invited 40 protesting farm unions for another round of talks on December 30, Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Tomar seemed to draw a hard line on Monday. Stating that Prime Minister was dedicated to “improving the economic condition of farmers”, Tomar said “no power could exert pressure and influence (dabaav aur prabhaav)” on him.
Addressing a separate event, Modi said the government would “keep marching on the path of strengthening Indian agriculture and farmers”.
Speaking to a group of farmers who support the new farm laws, Tomar said: “At the time of the UPA government, Manmohan Singhji and Sharad Pawarji also wanted to enact these laws, but they could not withstand the pressure and influence. So they could not legislate these laws. But we are fortunate that Narendra Modiji is our Prime Minister today.”
“Modiji has no selfish interest. His single-point programme is the development of the country and the welfare of the people. He is fully dedicated to the single-point programme of making agriculture prosperous and improving the economic condition of the farmers,” he said.
“Jab uddeshya prati samarpan ho, desh prati samarpan ho, toh koi bhi taakat apne dabaav aur prabhaav ka istemaal neta par nahin kar paatee (when there is dedication to the purpose, dedication to the country, then no power can exert pressure and influence on the leader),” said Tomar.
Tomar’s comments are in line with Modi’s earlier statement that the government was ready to talk to the farm unions, but the talks would have to be based on “issues, logic and facts.”
Flagging off the 100th Kisan Rail from Sangola in Maharashtra to Shalimar in West Bengal via video conference on Monday, Modi said the recent reforms would lead to the expansion of agri-business.
“We will keep marching on the path of strengthening Indian agriculture and farmers with full devotion, with full force,” Modi said. He said the Kisan Rail service was a major step towards boosting the income of farmers.
Meanwhile, Union Agriculture Secretary Sanjay Agarwal sent a letter to 40 representatives of farm unions, inviting them for the next round of talks on December 30. He said the government was committed to resolving the “relevant issues rationally” with a “clean intention and an open mind.”
All the issues related to farmers, including the three farm laws, MSP-based procurement, the Commission for the Air Quality Management in National Capital Region and Adjoining Areas Ordinance, 2020, and the Electricity Amendment Bill 2020 will be discussed in detail, Agarwal said in the letter.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Jamhuri Kisan Sabha general secretary Kulwant Singh Sandhu said the farm union leaders would attend the meeting. “We will go for the meeting, but the sequence of discussion of items on the agenda will be the same as has been given in our December 26 letter,” Sandhu said. “We have sent an email to the government confirming our participation in the talks,” he said.
The government’s letter comes two days after the protesting farm organisations announced their decision to resume talks with the government and proposed December 29 as the next meeting date.
The last round of talks between the government and farm unions was held on December 8, when Home Minister Amit Shah had met with 13 representatives of farm unions. A day after this meeting, the Centre had sent a written proposal of concessions to the protesting unions, which they had rejected in an email sent on December 16.
The talks between the government and farm unions have remained inconclusive as both sides have stuck to their positions. While the government has offered concessions, including changes in the relevant sections of the laws, the farmers are sticking to their demand for repeal of the three laws.
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