Even as thousands of farmers continue to protest at the capital’s doorstep, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh Monday said the Centre was open for discussion on the farm laws and that there was no question of taking any “retrograde” steps against the agriculture sector. Singh also said that the recent farm laws — which the farmers want to be scrapped — were undertaken keeping the best interests of farmers in mind.
Addressing the FICCI’s 93rd annual general meeting, Singh said, “Agriculture has been one sector which has been able to avoid the adverse effects of the pandemic and, in fact, come out the best. Our produce and procurement have been plentiful and our warehouses are full.”
“There is no question of taking retrograde steps against our agricultural sector ever. We are, however, always willing to listen to our farmer brothers, alley their misgivings, and provide them with assurances we can provide. Our Government is always open to discussion and dialogue,” Singh, considered to be moderate and pro-farmer leader in the ruling BJP, said.
Singh’s remarks come as the farmers’ protest entered the 19th day and the heads of 32 farmer unions observed a hunger strike to intensify their agitation. Despite several rounds of talks with the government, farmers have said the agitation would continue till the new laws are repealed, saying their demand was “non-negotiable”.
The farmers have expressed apprehension that these laws would pave the way for the dismantling of the minimum support price system, leaving them at the “mercy” of big corporates. The government has maintained that the new laws would bring farmers better opportunities.
At the event, Rajnath Singh also praised the “exemplary courage” shown by the armed forces against China, with the two countries now locked in a border standoff in eastern Ladakh for the past six months.
“While the world was fighting coronavirus, Indian armed forces were valiantly defending our borders. There is a big build-up of Armed Forces at the LAC in Ladakh. In these testing times, our forces have shown exemplary courage and remarkable fortitude. They fought the PLA with utmost bravery and forced them to go back. The coming generations of this nation will be proud of what our forces have managed to achieve this year. Whenever there is a situation at the LAC, the most obvious outcome is a comparison between India and China’s military strength,” he said.
Hitting out at Pakistan for sponsoring cross-border terrorism, Singh said, “Unprovoked aggression on our Himalayan frontiers is a reminder of how the world is changing, how existing agreements are being challenged, how power is being asserted not just in the Himalayas but across Indo-Pacific. We have been victims of cross-border terrorism, yet have fought the scourge alone even when there was no one to support us but later, they understood we were right about Pakistan being the fountainhead of terrorism.”