Citing COVID-19 surge, Agriculture Minister urges farm unions to call off protest

The government is ready to resume talks whenever farmers come with a proposal, says Narendra Singh Tomar.

Citing the spike in COVID-19 cases, Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar has appealed to protesting farmers to withdraw their agitation, saying that the government is ready to resume talks whenever they come with a proposal.

Farm unions have been protesting on the borders of Delhi for almost five months, demanding the repeal of three Central farm reform laws and asking for a legal guarantee that their crops would be bought at minimum support prices.

COVID-19 cases have surged this week, with a record 1.45 lakh people testing positive on Saturday. “Now in the second wave of pandemic, the entire nation and the world is following COVID-19 protocols. Even protesting farmers should follow the protocols. Their life is important for us,” said Mr. Tomar, in a video message posted on his Twitter account on Saturday evening. “In the current COVID-19 situation, I urge them to call off their protest. The government is ready for a discussion whenever they come with a proposal,” the Minister added.

Eleven rounds of talks between the unions and Central Ministers failed to resolve the problem, and negotiations broke down on January 22, after the farmers refused the government’s offer to suspend implementation of the laws for one and a half years.

“There is no dissatisfaction in the minds of farmers,” Mr. Tomar tweeted, noting that a number of farmer organisations have expressed support for the laws. “The government is ready to talk to the farmers unions which are against these agrarian reform bills. I will urge the farmers’ organisations to postpone their agitation. If they come for talks, the government is ready to talk to them,” he said.

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