Farmer leader Shiv Kumar Kakka said they are ready for the next round of talks and the government should tell them the date and time of the meeting.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s speech in Parliament on Monday was full of insults and empty talk, farm unions said responding to the remarks. If the government is serious about remunerative prices for farmers, then it needs to enact a law to guarantee them, and if it wishes to resume talks, then it must take steps to do so, union leaders said.
The Prime Minister’s jibe about andolan jeevis, or professional protestors, evoked outrage.
“Farmers would like to remind the PM that it is andolans that have liberated India from colonial rulers and that is why we are proud to be andolan jeevi,” said a statement from the joint front of unions, the Samyukt Kisan Morcha. “It is the BJP and its predecessors that never did any andolan against Britishers and they were always against the andolans, they are still scared of public movements.”
“This insult comes from a ‘Corporate Jeevi’ Prime Minister whose RSS was never a part of the glorious andolan of the people of India against the slavery of British rule,” said Hannan Mollah, general secretary of the All India Kisan Sabha.
Noting that 200 people had died during the protests so far, Rashtriya Kisan Mahasangh spokesperson Abhimanyu Kohar added that it was “an insult to use such a term for martyrs”.
With regard to the PM’s statement that minimum support prices were here to stay, union leaders asked why Mr. Modi was unwilling to put a legal guarantee in place to back up his words.
Rakesh Tikait, who leads one faction of the Bharatiya Kisan Union in Uttar Pradesh, said that without an MSP law, farmers are exploited and cannot count on a fair price. “The way rates of a flight ticket fluctuate three to four times a day, the price of crops will not be decided the same way,” he told reporters. “Those wanting business over hunger will be driven out of the country),” he warned.
“Without an MSP law, his assurance is simply cheap, empty talk. It is the same with negotiations. If the government really wants to restart talks, let them send us an invitation without terms and conditions, like accepting their proposal. Otherwise, we also have terms and conditions. Should we say that we will not come for talks until the laws are repealed?” said Mr. Kohar.
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“Farmers have been sitting in Delhi for so long; if [the government] wants to talk, then call the farmers,” said Gurnam Singh Chaduni, who heads his own faction of the BKU in Haryana. “Eleven rounds of negotiations have been done, the government did not find any solution,” he added.
Talks between the Centre and farm unions broke down on January 21. With negotiations uncertain, farm unions are shifting their focus away from the capital, making plans for continued mahapanchayats and pushing the agitation beyond the original hotspots in Punjab and Haryana.
Mr. Chaduni was in Rajasthan to organise farmers there on Monday. After addressing a series of mahapanchayats in western U.P., Mr. Tikait will be back in Haryana’s Kurukshetra district on Tuesday. There has been a large turnout for these gatherings in these States, and in Madhya Pradesh as well.
“This is a natural process of expansion to other States and other sections of society, and will only continue to grow. It has already become a jan andolan, a mass movement like the JP movement, rather than being restricted to farmers alone,” said Mr. Kohar on future strategy.