Prime Minister Modi Preparing for Next Round of Talks with India’s Protesting Farmers
Dec. 26, 2020 (EIRNS)—Almost a month since a large number of farmers began protesting against the new agriculture bills pushed through the Indian Parliament without due diligence in September, Prime Minister Narendra Modi held virtual talks yesterday with representatives of the farmers, asserting his government’s policies have benefitted the farm sector. Modi’s virtual public address was not focused on the new farm laws under contention, which farmers say must be repealed.
Six rounds of talks between government officials and farmer union leaders have failed to resolve the deadlock. Thousands of farmers from several Indian states have been camped on the outskirts of New Delhi for weeks, partially blocking highways to demand that Modi’s government repeal the September farm laws that they claim threaten their livelihoods.
In his remarks on Christmas Day, which coincides with 96th anniversary of the late-BJP Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s birthday, Modi showcased his “PM Kisan” program for farmers. This refers to a cash transfer scheme his government had set up in February 2019, under which farmers receive minimum income support— transferring another Rs180 billion to the program.
On Dec. 24, the Modi government sent a letter to 40 representatives of farmer unions, asking them to decide the time and date for the next round of talks, and also “give details of other issues on which you want to negotiate,” Business Standard reported.
Accusing the Opposition parties of “rumor-mongering” and “misleading the farmers,” Modi appealed to the farmers, saying:
“My dear farmers, please hear me clearly, you can sell your produce where you get the correct price. If you want to sell it at minimum support price (MSP), please do. You want to sell it to mandi (regulated markets), other states, to industries, please do. No mandi will be closed; MSP will stay. Do not listen to the rumors.”