Union Minister Anurag Thakur has urged protesting farmers to hold talks with the government, stating that even the Indian Navy veterans were brought back from Qatar through the power of dialogue.
Speaking to NDTV on Tuesday, when protesting farmers began their ‘Delhi Chalo’ march, Mr Thakur said talks are taking time because the farmers are making new demands, and they should not indulge in violence and arson.
Referring to the eight former Navy personnel who were released by the Qatar government, seven of whom reached India on Monday, Mr Thakur asserted, “When Indian Navy veterans can be saved from the death penalty and brought back safely from Qatar, if 27,000 Indians can be rescued during the Ukraine war under Operation Ganga, if crores of Indians can be brought back during Covid… all of this has been achieved through dialogue. My request to our farmer brothers is to come and continue our dialogue.”
“Our Union ministers sat till late last night to hear the farmers’ concerns but their representatives walked away. Even then we said discussions should continue. The discussions are taking longer because new demands are being put forward – they don’t want us to be part of the World Trade Organisation, they want us to scrap free trade agreements,” the minister, who holds the Information and Broadcasting and Sports portfolios, said in Hindi.
Some of the other new demands, he said, were that stubble burning should not be seen through the prism of pollution and that farmers should be kept out of the purview of the Electricity (Amendment) bill.
“We told them we will form a committee or we can also discuss with the agriculture minister. We will also have to hold discussions with states and other stakeholders. This is why I am telling them to continue the dialogue. When we have met most of your (farmers’) demands, a solution can be found on the rest through discussions,” he said.
Barbed Wires, Nails
Asked about the clashes during the protests and why barbed wires were put up and nails were laid on some of the state borders, the minister said law enforcement is a state subject. He urged the protestors not to indulge in violence as it causes a “loss to the nation”, and also pointed out that thousands of common people were having to endure long traffic jams.
Claiming that the Narendra Modi government has purchased more crops than the previous UPA government and the share of agriculture in the Budget has also gone up, Mr Thakur alleged that the Congress – whose leader Rahul Gandhi promised a legal guarantee on Minimum Support Price (MSP) on Tuesday if it is voted back to power – has never respected farmers. A law on MSP is one of the key demands of the protesting farmers.
“Rahul Gandhi ji, you are giving guarantees today. The Congress was in power for 60 years. The UPA government was in office between 2004 and 2014. You didn’t even implement the recommendation of the Swaminathan Commission… Neither will Rahul Gandhi come to power, nor will he do anything for farmers,” he said.
To a question on the opposition pointing out that the farmers were protesting at a time when the Bharat Ratna had been announced for farmer leader and former PM Chaudhary Charan Singh and the father of the Green Revolution, MS Swaminathan, Mr Thakur reiterated his call for dialogue and said the government has worked for the welfare of farmers and will continue to do so.