The farm unions, however, intensified their agitation in several parts of Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, UP and MP. They sat on fast, organised demonstrations and blocked key roads, therby triggering traffic snarls that lasted for several hours in some places, particularly para lysing transport on National Highway 8 — the main link between Rajasthan and Delhi.
Defence minister Rajnath Singh echoed Tomar, saying the Centre was open to dialogue, but asserted the recent reforms had been undertaken with the best interests of farmers in mind and “there is no question of taking retrograde steps” against the agriculture sector since it was the “mother” of all sectors.
Speaking at a Ficci convention, Singh said, “We are always willing to listen to our farmer brothers, allay their misgivings and provide them with assurances (that) we can provide. Our government is always open to discussion and dialogue,” adding agriculture was one sector able to avoid adverse effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Our produce and procurement have been plentiful and our warehouses are full,” he said. Tomar met MPs and MLAs of Haryana on issues relating to farm laws, the state’s share of waters from the Sutlej-Yamuna link canal and construction of three dams in the upper reaches of the Yamuna river.
Meanwhile, in Punjab and Haryana, farmers held demonstrations and gherao at the offices of deputy commissioners with a large number of protesters turning up in tractor trolleys. In Rajasthan, state roadways buses as well as trucks remained disconnected with states, including Delhi, Punjab, Uttarakhand, Punjab, Himachal and J&K and some parts of UP for the second consecutive day due to protests near Shahjahanpur in Haryana on NH-8.
Cabs and private bus operators also did not operate its buses to Delhi. The government, meanwhile, received a boost, even as protests intensified, with the late Sharad Joshi’s All India Kisan Coordination Committee supporting the new farm laws and its representatives meeting Tomar.
The AIKCC suggested that the laws be made “optional for states to accept or reject” as a way out to end the current impasse. Though groups from Haryana and Uttarakhand had met Tomar in support of the laws last week, AIKCC coming on board is significant as this umbrella organisation has nearly 7,000 farm NGOs as members working in Maharashtra, Telangana, Haryana, Punjab, TN, Bihar, UP and Kerala.
The AIKCC in its memorandum to the minister demanded continuation of the new laws with certain amendments and even suggested allowing genetically modified technology and other scientific tools to make India’s farm produce more competitive in the global trade.
“The committee (AIKCC) has welcomed these agricultural reform laws and told us that it has been struggling to have such laws in the country for long so that farmers get freedom (from various trade restrictions &controls),” Tomar said.
On the existing deadlock, Tomar, who met home minister Amit Shah for the second day in a row on Monday to discuss farmers’ issue, reiterated that the government was ready for talks.