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Farmers stay put amid harsh winter as stir enters second month

Farmers stay put amid harsh winter as stir enters second month
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New Delhi: The war of words between the BJP and opposition parties intensified on Sunday as the stir by thousands of farmers who are camping on Delhi's borders braving the harsh winters to press for the repeal of three new central agriculture laws entered the second month.

A day after protesting farmer unions proposed December 29 for the next round of talks but put forth several conditions for the agenda, Union Minister of State for Agriculture Kailash Choudhary expressed the hope that a solution will be reached in the meeting, even as several BJP leaders decried alleged attempts to politicise the farmer issues.

However, farmer leader and CPI(M) politburo member Hannan Mollah said there has been no response to their proposal for talks and dismissed claims that the Left parties were behind the agitation.

"The government till now said that we did not want a meeting, now that we have specifically told them when, where and what of the meeting, there is no response from them. Now, it is for the people to decide who are liars. We acknowledge that there cannot be a resolution without a dialogue with the government," the All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS) general secretary said.

Mollah said the farmer unions have proposed four specific talking points for the December 29 meeting — the government stating the procedure for repealing three farm laws, procedure to make minimum support price (MSP) for crops a legal right, release of Punjab farmers arrested in pollution-related cases, and repeal of the Electricity Amendment Bill. The government had earlier objected to the raising of issues not related to the three farm laws.

There has been no breakthrough after five rounds of talks between the Centre and the farmer unions, which rejected a government proposal to amend the laws and provide a written assurance on the MSP issue.

AAP supremo and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal visited the protest site at Singhu border for the second time and appealed to the Centre to scrap the contentious laws, but the BJP said he can fix a date and place of his choice where the benefits of the legislation could be explained to him.

"I challenge any Union minister to have an open debate with the farmers and it will be clear how beneficial or harmful these laws are," said Kejriwal who was accompanied by his deputy Manish Sisodia.

"Farmers are protesting for their survival. These laws will snatch away their land. I appeal with folded hands to the Centre to please repeal the three agri laws," he said.

Security remained tight at the Delhi borders with hundreds of personnel deployed at Singhu, Ghazipur and Tikri where the farmers, mostly from Punjab, Haryana and parts of Uttar Pradesh, have been camping since the last week of November.

Protesters clanged plates and other utensils at the sit-in sites and in some areas in Punjab and Haryana during Prime Minister Narendra Modi's 'Mann ki baat' monthly radio address following a call by agitating unions.

A lawyer from Punjab allegedly committed suicide by consuming poison on Sunday a few kilometres from the site of a farmers' protest at Tikri border and police are trying to verify a purported suicide note in which he said he was sacrificing his life in support of the farmers' agitation.

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on Sunday said attempts to "mislead" farmers on recent agriculture laws will not succeed. Addressing a function in Shimla, the BJP leader said the new laws will raise the income of farmers, but the Congress is misleading them.

Whenever a reform is introduced, it takes a few years before it starts showing positive results, Singh said in his virtual address.

BJP president J P Nadda shared an old video of Rahul Gandhi's speech in Lok Sabha in which he seems to be advocating the need for farmers to get rid of middlemen and sell their produce directly to industry, as he accused the Congress leader of playing politics over the ongoing farmers' protest.

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