New Delhi: Leaders of agitating farmers on Tuesday asserted they will "make" the Centre repeal the three new agri laws in a hardening of their stand even as Prime Minister Narendra Modi said a conspiracy is afoot to confuse them and accused the opposition of shooting off farmers' shoulders.
The prime minister also made a strong pitch for the agri laws enacted in September, describing them as historic and said his government was ready to remove any doubts about the legislations. I want to reiterate that my government is ready 24 hours to resolve all your doubts.
As leaders of multiple farmer unions leaders sought to ratchet up pressure on the Centre declaring their fight has reached a stage where they are "determined" to win it no matter what, Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar said the Centre is willing to continue its talks with "genuine farm unions" to find a solution with an open mind.
The union leaders again made it clear the government should first repeal all the three laws and only then there can be further talks. Negotiations between the government and the farmers' unions have remained stuck after five rounds.
The protests by farmers outside Delhi entered the 20th day as they braved the chilly weather with the minimum temperature in the Capital plummeting to 4.1 degrees Celsius, the lowest so far this season. The leaders also said they will completely block another key border point--the Chilla Border between Delhi and Noida in Uttar Pradesh-- on Wednesday.
After a meeting with members of the Bharatiya Kisan Union (Kisan) from Uttar Pradesh, Tomar said the Minimum Support Price (MSP), at which the government commits to procure the produce from farmers, is an administrative decision and it "will continue as it is". He also said the farm laws have been welcomed in various states across the country.
The farmers' unions are pressing for a separate legislation to ensure guaranteed MSP for crops.
Addressing a press conference at Singhu Border in Delhi, farmer leader Jagjeet Dallewal said, "The government is saying 'we won't repeal these laws', we are saying we will make you do it."
"The fight has reached a stage where we are determined to win no matter what," he added.
"We are not running away from negotiation, but the government has to pay heed to our demands and come forward with concrete proposals."
Several other farmer leaders also addressed the press conference, and called upon people to pay tributes on December 20 in memory of those farmers who have lost their lives during the ongoing protests.
Farmer leader Rishipal said that one farmer has died every day on an average since the protest started in the last week of November.
"A Homage Day (Shraddhanjali Diwas) for all the farmers who lost their lives and became martyrs in the ongoing protest will be organised across the country in villages and tehsil headquarters on 20th December from 11 am to 1 pm," said another farmer leader.
Without taking names, Modi, who was on a day-long visit to Gujarat, said opposition parties who are supporting the protest, when in power, were in favour of similar reforms in the agriculture sector.
To buttress his point, Modi gave the example of two sectors in Gujarat, his home state, which flourished without government intervention.
He said dairy and fisheries sectors in the state grew exponentially without much intervention of the state government as the business is mainly handled by co-operative sector leaders and farmers.
"In other parts of the country too, milk producers and the co-operative sector have created a successful supply chain. Similarly, governments do not have any significant control on the trade of fruits and vegetables.
"I am giving these examples because a conspiracy is afoot to confuse farmers who have gathered near Delhi at present," Modi said.
He was speaking at a function in Dhordo after performing virtual stone laying ceremonies for three projects in Kutch district - a hybrid renewable energy park, a desalination plant and a milk processing and packing unit.
He also accused the opposition of using "farmers' shoulders to fire their guns".
"I am confident that progressive farmers will defeat those who are doing politics, spreading falsehood and using farmers' shoulders to fire their guns," Modi said.
"A sense of fear is being injected into their minds. Farmers are told that their land will be grabbed by others if the new farm laws get implemented.
"I want to ask you. Did the dairy owner take your cattle because you are selling milk to him? Has anyone taken your land or property for entering into a contract to sell your fruits and vegetables," he said.
"Demand for farm sector reforms which we brought recently was very old. Many farmer bodies have demanded since long that farmers should be given freedom to sell their produce anywhere they want."
The prime minister said those in opposition were in favour of these reforms when they were in power.
"But, they failed to take any decision when in power. They only gave hollow promises to farmers.
"Now, when the country has taken this historic step, these very people are spreading falsehood," he said.
Modi said farmers from each and every corner of the country have welcomed the farm laws and given "blessings" to the government.
Bharatiya Kisan Union (Kisan) from Uttar Pradesh, which submitted a memorandum to Tomar with suggestions regarding the Farm Acts and the MSP, has decided to end for now its protest, which it was holding at district levels in Uttar Pradesh. They have not been part of the nearly 40 farmers' groups that have been protesting at various border points of the national capital and had attended talks with the Centre.
According to the Agriculture ministry's statement, Tomar thanked the BKU (Kisan) leaders for coming out in support of the Farm Acts and said these laws have been welcomed in various states across the country.
"He (Tomar) further added that the Government is willing to continue dialogue with genuine farm unions and is willing to find a solution with an open mind," the statement said.
The BKU (Kisan) leaders suggested that farmers be given an option of going to civil courts in case of a dispute. They also suggested that the Panchayat head should be accorded the same importance as the head of the mandi to safeguard the rights of the farmers in small towns and villages.
After the meeting, BKU (Kisan) President Pawan Thakur told reporters, "The minister explained the laws in detail and we realised the laws are really good. We had some doubts, he cleared them all. The minister said he will look into our demands."
Uttar Pradesh Cooperative Minister Mukut Bihari Verma, meanwhile, said opposition parties have joined together against the new farm laws due to their frustration over the recent election results.
He claimed the opposition parties and some farmer leaders have realised that their survival is at stake if they do not agitate against the BJP.