Farmers protest, hard talk

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As farmers continue to protest near Delhi, the Modi government toughens its stand as it attacks the opposition and projects its pro-farmer image. But it fails to break the ice with the agitating groups. 

Our Bureau 
New Delhi

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday released Rs 18,000 crores as the next instalment under the Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi scheme to over 9 crore farmers. Modi also interacted with farmers after the release of Rs 18,000 crores as part of PM Kisan Samman Nidhi scheme. Under the PM-KISAN Scheme, a financial benefit of Rs 6,000 per year is provided to the eligible beneficiary farmers, payable in three equal 4-monthly installments of Rs 2000 each through direct benefit transfer.

Meanwhile, Union Agricultural Minister Narendra Singh Tomar appealed to the protesting farmers to end their protest and hold talks with the government.

“I appeal to the protesting farmers to end their protest and hold talks with the government. I hope they will understand the importance of the new farm laws, and the issue will be resolved soon,” Tomar said. 

Farmers continue their protest at the borders of Delhi against 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.

An old farmer sleeps at the site during the ongoing farmers’ protest against the new farm laws near Delhi on Friday. (ANI)

But, Narendra Modi on Friday slammed the Opposition for “misleading farmers”, spreading misinformation on the new agriculture laws and destroying the economic policy (arth neeti) in the name of farmers. “Those rejected by the electorate are now indulging in event management for publicity. The country has seen these people. They are exposed in front of the country. The party which does not say anything about injustice to farmers in West Bengal are busy creating problems for people of Delhi and destroying the economy in the name of farmers,” he said.

Modi said that the groups who are talking about mandis and the APMC are the ones who destroyed West Bengal and Kerala. “There is no APMC and mandis in Kerala. Those ruling Kerala for years are joining Punjab farmers for selfies, but not doing anything for mandi system in their own state. They have time for misleading farmers of Punjab. If this is so good they why are they not fight to implement it in Kerala? They don’t have facts, levelling false allegations and spread misinformation and create fear among farmers and misleading them. Sometimes farmers get mislead by them,” PM Modi said.

The Prime Minister said that those who remained in the govt previously for several years had left the farmers on their own. “Promises were made and forgotten. Due to the agriculture policies of the previous government, the poor became poorer, was it not important to change this state of farmers?” he asked.

Also, Defense Minister Rajnath Singh on Friday urged the protesting farmers to let the three Central farm laws remain implemented for a year or two and assured that the government will make the required amendments if the farmers thought that these laws were not in their favor.

“Let these laws be implemented for a year or two. After this, if you think these laws are not in favor of farmers, then, I’m sure as I know our PM’s intention, we’ll make all the required amendments in them,” he said speaking at an event in Delhi’s Dwarka.

Singh reiterated that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said and he will also give his word that MSP won’t end.

Union Home Minister Amit Shah on Friday said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi is the true well-wisher of farmers. Speaking at a public event in Mehrauli, Shah reiterated that opposition is misleading farmers regarding minimum support price (MSP). “I want to make it clear that the MSP system will remain. The three farm laws are in the favor of the farmers. Nobody can remove the MSP system or snatch farmers’ land from them. The government is ready to hold talks with farmers’ unions with an open heart,” the Minister said.

All the ministers have ramped up their attacks on Congress party. 

Lashing out at Congress leader Rahul Gandhi for criticizing the farm laws, Union Finance Minister and BJP leader Nirmala Sitharaman on Friday said that his party members are protesting because the “pro-farmers policies” mentioned in Congress’ 2019 election manifesto are being implemented by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, not by them. “I want to ask Rahul Gandhi that were these pro-farmers policies not mentioned in the 2019 election manifesto of Congress? They are protesting just because those reforms are being implemented by Prime Minister Modi, and not them,” Sitharaman said while talking to media here. She was responding to a question asked by the reporter about Gandhi’s criticism of the farm laws.

Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has hit out at former Congress chief Rahul Gandhi and asked him to clarify where and with what intention he is supporting farmers. Addressing a press conference on Thursday, BJP MP Dr Sudhanshu Trivedi said that if there is no APMC Act in Kerala then why the Wayanad MP does not stand with farmers there. “Rahul Gandhi is Wayanad MP. Is there the APMC Act in Kerala? If not, then, why don’t you stand with farmers there? How is it possible that something is good for Kerala, and not in Delhi? He must clarify where and with what intention he is supporting farmers,” Trivedi said.

Meanwhile, in a dramatic development, farmers protesting against the three farm laws in Punjab’s Mansa have shut the power supply to several Reliance Jio towers here, disrupting the telecom giant’s services in parts of the state.

One of the protesters, Avatar Singh said that the supply will not be restored until “black” laws are repealed. “We have stopped power supply of Jio towers. We will continue to boycott Jio and Reliance until the black laws against farmers are revoked. We will not let anybody to run it. Everyone is supporting it. Modi government has brought these laws for the benefit of corporates,” Singh told ANI.

Another protester Manpreet Singh said: “We are opposing Reliance and Jio. Until farm laws are repealed, power supply to these towers will not be restored.”

Earlier, Reliance Jio has written to the Telecom Regulator Authority of India (TRAI) seeking strict action against Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea for “unethical practices” and “unscrupulous violations” and to stop campaigns under which “false propaganda is being spread across the country to get some additional MNP port-ins” by “capitalizing on the ongoing farmer protest in the northern parts of the country”. 

In a related development, the international NGO Khalsa Aid has been set up a Kisan Mall at Tikri border to provide items of daily use for free of cost to protesting farmers. The racks are stocked with toothbrushes, toothpaste, soaps, oil, shampoo, vaseline, combs, mufflers, heating pads, knee caps, thermal suits, shawls and blankets, among other things. “We distribute issue a token to farmers through Khalsa Aid with which they can procure items from Kisan Mall. They arrive here with a token. We have made a list of things available. All things which are of daily use are available here. Khalsa aid volunteers pick things as per the requirements of farmers and give it to them in the bag. We distribute over 500 tokens every day,” Guru Charan, the store manager told ANI.

Farmer families hold posters during an ongoing protest against the new farm laws at the Tikri border in New Delhi on Friday (ANI)

Some days back, on December 11 Khalsa Aid had set up a foot massage centre for farmers who continue their protest against the farm laws at the Singhu border (Delhi-Haryana border).

The farmers’ protest entered day 30 on Friday. Yesterday the Central government asked the farmer unions to give them a time and date for the next round of discussions that will be held in Vigyan Bhawan with ministers.

The talks between farmers and the Central government to date has remained inconclusive with scores of farmers sitting at various borders across the national capital as a mark of protest against the new agriculture laws.

In a show of strength, farmers performed ‘havan’ at the Delhi-Uttar Pradesh border in Gazipur on the occasion of birth anniversary of former Prime Minister Chaudhary Charan Singh on Wednesday. “We want to take Chaudhary Charan Singh’s views forward and the farmers should get what they want, hence, we are performing Havan today. We have not reached any solution after talks (with the government) yet,” said Rakesh Tikait, Spokesperson, Bhartiya Kisan Union who also performed havan here along with other farmers. Meanwhile, farmers continue to protest against the new farm laws at Singhu (Delhi-Haryana) and Tikri borders, demanding withdrawal of farm laws.

“I would like to urge Prime Minister that on the occasion of Farmers Day that he should give us a gift by withdrawing the farm laws. Today’s farmers are educated, they know everything about the law,” said an agitating farmer at Tikri border.

On the letter sent by the government to farmers, a protestor said: “The letter will be answered today. We are ready to talk but they do not want to talk because they have a problem.”

With the government too talking in a tough language, there is no resolution of the problem at the moment. 

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