With the farm protests spilling over to the third week and no end in sight to the deadlock, former Union agriculture minister and NCP chief Sharad Pawar Friday slammed the Centre for not heeding the advice of Opposition parties and hurrying the new agriculture laws through Parliament — and cautioned it against testing the patience of farmers.
Speaking to reporters in Mumbai, Pawar also warned that the farmers’ agitation may spread from Delhi’s borders to other parts of the country if the Government does not take a decision soon.
“When these Bills were tabled before Parliament, it was conveyed to the Government that even though it was possible for them at that moment to clear these important Bills without any discussion, there was bound to be a reaction from the farmers at a later stage. But the Government did not pay heed to this and cleared these Bills with a nominal discussion of 15-20 minutes,” Pawar said.
“Today, the farmers have taken an extreme position that if the state wants a solution out of this present agitation, it needs to first withdraw these Bills,” he said.
“The Centre, however, does not seem to be receptive to this demand and this struggle may be prolonged for a few more days… The farmer is the food provider of our country. It is my request to the Centre that it should not test their patience anymore,” said Pawar, whose party is part of the ruling coalition in Maharashtra.
The political veteran also said that given the Centre’s stance, the deadlock may continue and even spread. “I have got information that 700 tractors full of farmers have joined the protests today. If a quick decision is not taken, these protests can spread,” Pawar said.
Asked about Union Minister Raosaheb Danve’s comment about the alleged involvement of China and Pakistan in the farmers’ agitation, he said: “Some people do not have the sense of what should be said where and how. We should not pay attention to such comments.”
The last five rounds of talks between the Government and farmers have remained inconclusive. The last scheduled round of talks, on December 9, was cancelled after a meeting between Union Home Minister Amit Shah and representatives of farm unions.
The Centre then extended a new set of proposals to resolve the crisis, including a written assurance on continuation of minimum support price (MSP)-based procurement and parity in transactions inside and outside Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC) mandis.
But farm leaders rejected the proposals and said that they would escalate their protests if the laws were not fully repealed. On Thursday, the Centre issued a fresh call for farmers to end their agitation and join a new round of talks.
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