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Farmers reject Centre’s offer; threaten to block Delhi

Farmers reject Centre’s offer; threaten to block Delhi
Police stand guard near a barricade as farmers protest at Singhu border during their ‘Delhi Chalo’ march against the Centre’s farm reform laws, in New Delhi, Sunday.
New Delhi/Chandigarh, Nov 29 | Publish Date: 11/29/2020 11:35:29 AM IST

Rejecting the Centre’s offer to hold talks once they move to the Burari ground, the farmers who are protesting at Delhi’s borders for four days against the new farm laws on Sunday said they will not accept any conditional dialogue and threatened to block all five entry points to the national capital.

As the standoff showed no signs of easing, PM Narendra Modi again batted for the new laws in his monthly radio address, saying these reforms have given the farmers “new rights and opportunities” and have started mitigating their problems in a short span of time. Home Ministry too assured the farmers’ organisations that a high-level team of Union Ministers will talk to them once the protesters move to the designated site.

A meeting of over 30 farmer groups was held to discuss Union Minister Amit Shah’s offer for talks before the scheduled date of December 3 once they move to Burari in the city, but the thousands of protesters refused to budge and prepared for spending another night in the cold at the Singhu and Tikri border points.

Their representatives said Shah’s condition that they shift the protest is not acceptable and claimed Burari ground is an “open jail”.

Opposition parties too pressed the government to initiate an unconditional dialogue with the farmers.

“The condition laid down by Home Minister Amit Shah is not acceptable to us. We will not hold any conditional talks. We reject the government’s offer. The blockade will not end. We will block all five entry point to Delhi,” Surjeet S Phul, Bhartiya Kisan Union’s Punjab president, told reporters.

“The condition put for talks is an insult to farmers. We will never go to Burari. It is not a park but an open jail,” he added.

Gurnam Singh Chadhoni, Haryana unit president for the Bhartiya Kisan Union, said they were ready to talk “but will not accept any condition now”.

Union Home Secretary Ajay Kumar Bhalla in a letter to 32 farmers organisations sent on Saturday cited the cold conditions and the COVID-19 outbreak and said the farmers should move to the Burari ground where adequate facilities have been made for them.

Union Home Minister Amit Shah had on Saturday said that a delegation of the farmers has been invited for a discussion on December 3 but as some of their unions have demanded that talks should be held immediately, the central government is ready to do so as soon as the protesters shift to the ground in Burari.

The central government has reached out to the farmers underscoring its willingness to hold talks with them. It has also asserted that concerns expressed by some farm bodies about the new laws are misplaced, asserting that existing support measures like the Minimum Support Price (MSP) and state-run ‘mandis’ will remain in place.

In his monthly ‘Mann Ki Baat’ broadcast, Prime Minister Modi said “correct information, away from rumours and confusion of any kind” is a big strength for people in any field, as he spoke about a couple of farmers involved with innovative practices in the field.

“The demands, which were made by farmers for years and regarding which every political party at some point of time had made promises, have been fulfilled... These reforms have not only freed them of various shackles but also given them new rights and new opportunities. These rights have begun mitigating farmers’ problems in a very short span of time,” he said on the new farm laws.

Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal asked the Centre to immediately and unconditionally hold talks with the farmers.

BJP’s former ally Shiv Sena said farmers protesting against the Centre’s new agri laws are being treated as if they are “terrorists”, and it is sad that they are not being allowed to enter Delhi.

 

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