New Delhi: A delegation of opposition leaders on Wednesday met President Ram Nath Kovind and sought repeal of the three farm laws against which thousands of farmers have been protesting on various borders of the national capital.
The five-member delegation comprised Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, NCP chief Sharad Pawar, CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury, CPI general secretary D Raja and DMK leader TKS Elangovan.
"We met the President and informed him of our view regarding the three farm laws. We have asked for their repeal. We informed the President that it is critical that they are taken back," Gandhi told reporters after the meeting.
He said the way the farm laws were passed in Parliament, "we feel it was an insult to farmers and that is why they are protesting in the cold weather against them".
The three bills were passed without any discussion or conversation with the opposition parties or with farmers, he said.
"The kisan (farmer) has lost faith in the government. The kisan does not believe that the government is acting in their interest and that is why lakhs of them are on the streets, non-violently, compassionately on the streets," Gandhi said, adding, "The farmers will not relent and will continue their protests till the laws and taken back."
Later, Gandhi tweeted, "The farmers of the country have realised that they have been cheated by the Modi government and they are not going to relent because they know that if they compromise today they will have no future. The farmers are India. We are all with farmers. Stay put."
The opposition leaders submitted a memorandum to the President that said, "We urge upon you, as the custodian of the Indian Constitution, to persuade your government not to be obdurate and accept the demands raised by India's annadatas."
"The new agri-laws, passed in Parliament in an anti-democratic manner preventing a structured discussion and voting, threaten India's food security, destroy Indian agriculture and our farmers, lay the basis for the abolishment of the Minimum Support Price (MSP) and mortgage Indian agriculture and our markets to the caprices of multi-national agri-business corporates and domestic corporates," it said.
The memorandum to the President further said that more than 20 different political parties, including many parties governing states, have extended their solidarity with the ongoing struggle of the Indian peasantry and extended wholehearted support to their call for a Bharat Bandh on December 8, demanding the repeal of the "retrograde" agri laws and the Electricity Amendment Bill.
Gandhi said the new laws appeared to be aimed at handing over the farming sector to the "friends of the prime minister", but the farmers are fearless and would not back off and will continue with their peaceful agitation.
He said the government should have no "misconception" and the "farmers will not compromise" on the issue because if they do that they will have no future.
"I want to tell the farmers that if they don't stand up now, they won't be able to stand up anytime in future," he added.
NCP leader Pawar said various political parties have requested the President that these farm laws should be repealed as they were not discussed with either stakeholders or in the Select Committee of Parliament.
The former agriculture minister said not a single suggestion of opposition leaders raised in Parliament were accepted by the government and all these bills were passed in haste.
He said the MSP has not been mentioned in the new farm laws and that is why the farmers are disturbed.
CPI(M) leader Yechury said, "We told the President that the three farm laws were passed undemocratically in Parliament and have sought the repeal of these laws."
He said the government should repeal the acts in view of the widespread protests by farmers.
Raja said these three laws will place the farmers and agricultural workers at the "mercy of corporates" and big agri-businesses.
"This is not in the interest of the country as a whole. It is not affecting only the farmers, who have been protesting for last two weeks, it will subject the agriculture workers to horrific living conditions," Raja said, adding as political parties, "they cannot remain mute spectators".
Elangovan said the government promised Parliament that they will implement the recommendations of the Swaminathan Commission on Minimum Support Price. "But this bill has negated that promise," he added.
The opposition leaders said the prime ministers have been saying that these laws are in the interest of farmers, but the question is if these laws are in their favour then why the farmers are protesting out in the cold.
The opposition delegation was limited to five because of the COVID-19 situation.
The three farm laws enacted in September have been projected by the government as major reforms in the agriculture sector that will remove the middlemen and allow farmers to sell anywhere in the country.
However, the protesting farmers have expressed apprehension that the new laws would pave the way for eliminating the safety cushion of Minimum Support Price and do away with the mandis, leaving them at the mercy of big corporates.