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Tomar Calls On Farmers To Cancel Protest As Covid Cases Rise, Says Government Ready For Talks News from India


NEW DELHI: Amid a spike in Covid-19 cases, Union agriculture minister Narendra Singh Tomar on Saturday called on farmers protesting at the Delhi borders to halt their long-running agitation, saying that the government is ready for a discussion every time they come up with a concrete proposal.
Thousands of farmers have been protesting the three new agricultural marketing laws for almost five months, defying the terrible pandemic. There has been no progress on the jam on the issue since January 22, when the eleventh and final round of formal talks took place between the central government and protesting farmers’ unions.
Tomar expressed concern for the health and well-being of farmers, as India witnessed a record increase of more than 1.45 lakh in coronavirus cases on Saturday.
“Now, in the second wave of the pandemic, the entire nation and the world is following Covid-19 protocols. Even protesting farmers must follow the protocols. Their life is important to us,” Tomar said.
“In the current Covid-19 situation, I urge you (agitating the farmers) to suspend your protest. The government is ready for a discussion as long as it comes up with a proposal, “he told reporters.
Stating that there is no “dissatisfaction” among the agricultural community across the country with the new agricultural laws, the minister said that many agricultural bodies are in fact in favor of these laws, while some are opposed to them.
“Ours is a democratic country, whether they are farmers or citizens, if they have any doubts, the government believes that it is their responsibility to clear up doubts and find a solution,” he said.
The minister said the three laws were not drafted suddenly, but there was a long discussion in the past and Prime Minister Narendra Modi has pushed it forward, he said.
He said that normally any protests continue if the government is not ready for talks. But this government has held with an open heart 11 rounds of discussion with representatives of protesting agricultural unions, but its agitation did not stop, he said.
At these meetings, the government had identified their concerns and offered them a proposal to suspend the laws for a year and a half and establish a committee to examine them.
“We proposed that a committee be established to examine these laws and the MSP (issue) as well. After the committee presents its report, the government will discuss. This proposal was well received throughout the country, but protesting farmers rejected it without cite any reason, “he said.
Farmers could have resumed their protest if they found the proposed committee’s recommendations unsatisfactory, he added.
“We had told the agricultural unions to come up with their own proposal and we were ready to discuss that as well,” said the minister, stating that the government is ready for talks even today.
Tomar reiterated that it had appealed to farmers’ unions in all 11 rounds of meetings to return older people and children from protest sites in light of the pandemic.
The minister also said that agitating farmers must understand that ordinary citizens face difficulties due to their protest sitting on the border.
India reported a record 1.45,384 new cases on Saturday, bringing the count to 1.32.05,926.
The number of active cases also surpassed the 10 lakh mark again after around six and a half months, while the death toll due to the viral illness has risen to 1.68,436 with 794 more deaths, the highest since October 18. last year.
Delhi, meanwhile, reported 7,897 cases and 39 new deaths on Saturday.

Times of India