Home News Citing Cold Weather and Covid-19, Centre Invites Protesting Farmers for Next Round of Talks Today

Citing Cold Weather and Covid-19, Centre Invites Protesting Farmers for Next Round of Talks Today

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Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar late on Monday night said protesting farmers have been invited for talks again on Tuesday. It had earlier been decided that the next round of discussion would take place on December 3, but they have been moved forward due to the relentless agitation, the coronavirus pandemic and the cold weather, he said.

Tomar’s outreach came on a day when Prime Minister Narendra Modi accused opposition parties of playing tricks against the farmers, adding that apprehensions and protests are being whipped up by those opposing the Acts.

“When farm laws were brought, they caused some misconception among farmers. We held two rounds of talks with farmer leaders — on October 14 and November 13. At that time too, we had urged them not to go for agitation and that the government is ready for talks,” Tomar was quoted as saying by news agency ANI.

Farmer leaders present during the first round of talks have been invited to Vigyan Bhavan in New Delhi on December 1 at 3pm, said Tomar.

Meanwhile, Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) Uttar Pradesh secretary Harendra Nehra said farmers protesting against the Centre’s agri laws will stay put at the UP Gate border of the national capital. He asserted they will not move till the legislations are rolled back. More are continuously arriving at the protest site from various districts of the state and “we are camping here” till the Centre fulfils farmers’ demands, he said.

More protesters converged near the borders of Delhi as the stir appeared to intensify, prompting the Delhi Police to enhance security and place concrete barriers at all entry points from Haryana and Uttar Pradesh. The farmers, who had on Sunday announced they would blockade five points of entry into Delhi in coming days while rejecting the Centre’s offer to hold talks once they move to the Burari ground, said they have come for a decisive battle and urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to listen to their “mann ki baat”.

Peaceful protests were underway at both the Singhu and Tikri borders, where farmers had gathered from Punjab and Haryana, for the fifth day. The numbers of farmers at the Ghazipur border swelled,with more joining them from UP. Long queues of vehicles choked the roads in parts of the national capital on Monday as the Delhi Police kept the Singhu and Tikri borders closed and heightened checking at other places in the wake of the ongoing protests by farmers.

The closure of borders has also resulted in heavy traffic on other alternative routes between Delhi and Haryana. Addressing a press conference at Singhu border, a representative of protesting farmers said that they will continue their agitation until their demands are met.

“Our demands are non-negotiable,” Jagmohan Singh, general secretary Bhartiya Kisan Union (Dakaunda) said. “We have come here to fight a decisive battle,” Singh said. “We will remain at Delhi borders and make our strategy from here. We have come to Delhi to ask the prime minister to listen to ‘mann ki baat’ of farmers, else it will have to pay a heavy price,” he said.

Security beefed up

As the protests continued, Delhi Police said that it has enhanced deployment of security personnel, and multi-layer barricading is in place following the farmers’s call to block all five border points. “Delhi Police has strengthened its presence at various border points in the wake of farmers protest. All internal (Delhi Police) and outside (paramilitary) forces have been mobilised to the maximum,” a senior police officer said.

He said that concrete barriers have also been placed to prevent the farmers from entering the national capital. In the evening, Delhi Police Commissioner SN Shrivastava also visited Singhu border to take stock of the security arrangements.

Meanwhile, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal also appealed to the people of the city to extend all possible help to the farmers and urged the Centre to hold talks with them at the earliest.

The chief minister wished everyone on the occasion of Gurupurab in a video message. “On this occasion, I appeal to all Delhiites to do whatever they can for the protesting farmers in all possible ways,” he said.

Experts have warned the ongoing agitation could well be a COVID-19 superspreader but protestors, some in masks and many without them, said the new farm laws pose a greater threat to their survival. “A protest is a mass gathering and thus from a public health perspective, I would urge protective and preventive behaviour against the spread of coronavirus

infection, failing which a superspreading event might set in, cautioned Dr Samiran Panda, head of the Epidemiology and Communicable Diseases division at the Indian Council of Medical Research.

Many of the farmers said they are aware the infection is still raging but the Centre’s new farm laws are a bigger threat. Gurmeet Singh from Faridkot in Punjab, for instance, has been at the Burari ground, one of the largest in the city, for three days and counting. And he has no intention of moving.

“We may even survive corona, but how will we survive this cruel law that will take away our bread and butter,” he said. Many protesters said that they have come prepared for a long haul with rations and other necessities.

Sukhwinder Singh, who has been agitating at the Tikri border for the fifth consecutive day, said farmers don’t want to go to Burari ground — the designated protest site identified for the demonstration. “We have enough ration to sustain for at least six months. We do not wish to go to Burari. If we proceed from here, we will only go to Jantar Mantar. We will not protest anywhere else,” Singh said.

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