Prime Minister Narendra Modi today said that his government’s proposal to pause implementation of the controversial agriculture laws for 18 months – while negotiations to resolve a weeks-long deadlock with irate farmers continue – remains on the table.
The proposal – presented earlier this month after nine rounds of talks failed to provide a breakthrough – had been rejected by farmer leaders who insist on the scrapping of all three laws.
“During the All-Party meet PM Narendra Modi assured that GOI (Government of India) is approaching the farmers’ issue with an open mind. The PM said GoI’s stand is same as it was on January 22 – the proposal by the Agriculture Minister still stands,” Union Minister Pralhad Joshi said.
“He (the Prime Minister) reiterated what (Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh) Tomarji said – that he is phone call away for talks,” Mr Joshi added.
After the first rejection the proposal was refused once more last week – after the eleventh round of talks – leading Mr Tomar to declare “the ball is your (the farmers’) court now”.
Today, however, the Prime Minister reiterated the offer to pause implementation of the laws.
He made the offer during an all-party meeting ahead of the presentation of the Union Budget on Monday. The meeting took place a day after 20 opposition parties boycotted the President’s address to a joint sitting of parliament in protest against the agriculture laws.
The boycott of the speech – which is part of parliamentary tradition – was met with a reminder from the Prime Minister today, asking all parties to ensure smooth functioning of the House.
“PM Narendra Modi reaffirmed the importance of smooth functioning of Parliament.. frequent disruptions mean smaller parties suffer as they can’t express themselves adequately. The Prime Minister said it is for the bigger parties to ensure Parliament functions smoothly,” Mr Joshi said.
Lakhs of farmers across India have spent the last several weeks demanding the centre repeal laws they say will leave them at the mercy of large corporate firms.
The tense situation exploded on Republic Day when groups of farmers and others clashed with police during a tractor rally that turned violent. Police had to resort to firing tear gas and lathi charges to control the situation. One farmer died and hundreds of cops were injured.
Referring to the Republic Day violence PM Modi said “the law will take its own course”.
Delhi Police, tasked with investigating the violence, has issued notices to over two dozen farmer leaders, who called it a ploy to end their movement by blaming them for the chaos.
Earlier today the Home Ministry suspended internet services in the Delhi border areas of Singhu, Ghazipur and Tikri – epicentres of the farmers’ protest – from 11 pm for a period of 24 hours.
“… it is necessary and expedient to order the temporary suspension of internet services in the areas of Singhu, Ghazipur and Tikri, and their adjoining areas in the NCT of Delhi from 11 pm on January 29 to 11 pm on January 31,” the ministry notification said.