Union Minister Anurag Thakur urged the protesting farmers to hold talks with the government, stating that even Indian Navy veterans were brought from Qatar through the power of dialogue.
Speaking to NDTV on Tuesday, as the protesting farmers began their ‘Delhi Chalo’ march, Thakur said talks are taking time because farmers are making new demands and violence and arson should not be allowed.
Referring to the eight former Navy personnel who were released by the Qatari government, seven of whom arrived in India on Monday, Thakur said: “When Indian Navy veterans can be saved from the death penalty and brought safe and sound from Qatar, if 27,000 Indians can be rescued during the Ukraine war under Operation Ganges, if millions of Indians can be rescued during Covid… all this has been achieved through dialogue. My request to our brothers farmers is to come and continue our dialogue.
“Our Union ministers sat late last night to listen to farmers’ concerns, but their representatives walked out. Even then we said discussions should continue. Discussions are taking longer because new demands are being raised – they don’t want us to be part of the World Trade Organization, they want us to abandon 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) Act.
“We told them that we will form a committee or we can also discuss with the Agriculture Minister. We will also have to hold talks with the states and other stakeholders. That is why I tell them to continue the dialogue. When we have met most of their demands (of farmers), the rest can be resolved through discussions,” he said.
Barbed Wires, Nails
When asked about clashes during the protests and why barbed wire and spikes were placed on some state borders, the minister said law enforcement is a state issue. He urged protesters not to indulge in violence as it causes a “loss to the nation”, and also noted that thousands of ordinary people had to endure long traffic jams.
Claiming that the Narendra Modi government has purchased more crops than the previous UPA government and agriculture’s share in the budget has also increased, Thakur alleged that the Congress, whose leader Rahul Gandhi promised a legal guarantee on the Minimum Price (MSP) on Tuesday if voted back into power – has never respected farmers. A law on MSP is one of the key demands of the protesting farmers.
“Rahul Gandhi ji, today you are giving assurance. Congress was in power for 60 years. UPA government was in power between 2004 and 2014. You didn’t even implement the Swaminathan Commission recommendation… Neither will Rahul Gandhi comes to power, nor will he do anything for the farmers,” he said.
To a question on the opposition, which pointed out that farmers were protesting at a time when the Bharat Ratna had been announced for farmer leader and former Prime Minister Chaudhary Charan Singh and the father of the Green Revolution, MS Swaminathan, Thakur reiterated his call to dialogue. and said that the government has worked for the welfare of farmers and will continue to do so.