Indian oppn demands repeal of farm laws

Govt again invites farmers for talks

25 December, 2020 12:00 AM printer

NEW DELHI: India’s main opposition party pressed the government on Thursday to call a special parliamentary session to withdraw new agricultural laws that farmers say will leave them at the mercy of big corporations, reports Reuters.

Rahul Gandhi, a senior leader from the opposition Congress party, handed the president a copy of a petition that he said had attracted 20 million signatures online.

“The prime minister wants to help two, three business people” by introducing the farm laws, said Gandhi, the great-grandson of India’s founding Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. The government says the reforms passed in September are meant to overhaul antiquated procurement procedures and open up the market.

Tens of thousands of farmers have camped out on national highways for weeks demanding the government withdraw the laws that they fear will eventually dismantle regulated markets and stop the government buying wheat and rice at guaranteed prices.

Six rounds of talks between government officials and farmer union leaders have failed to resolve the deadlock. Prime Minister Narendra Modi last week offered to “very humbly” hold further discussions.

On Thursday, the government again invited protesting farmers to further talks.

Farmers’ union leaders have accused the government of trying to weaken and discredit them by describing protesting farmers as “anti-nationals”.

“You are dealing with protesting farmers in a manner as if they are not aggrieved citizens but political rivals,” Samyukta Kisan Morcha, or United Farmers’ Front, a coalition of farmers unions, said in a letter addressed to the farm ministry on Thursday.

“Farmers would be compelled to intensify their agitation further for their survival if the government continued to treat them in this manner,” the letter said.

NDTV reports; Congress leaders led by Rahul Gandhi, marching to the Rashtrapati Bhavan, were stopped by the police before a small delegation was allowed to enter the presidential palace to submit to President Ram Nath Kovind a memorandum seeking his intervention for the withdrawal of the farm laws against which thousands of farmers have been protesting near Delhi for nearly a month. Rahul’s sister, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, and several other leaders, were taken into preventive custody by the police and sent away in a bus to a police station after they were stopped. There were released a short while later.