Farmers begin relay hunger strike, Centre still pressing for talks
A day-long "relay" hunger strike began on Monday against three controversial agricultural reforms, a day after the Centre told the protesting farmers it was ready for talks on a date of their choosing. The farmers will be going on a hunger strike in batches, with the first one consisting of 11 members. Their massive agitation has thrown normalcy under the bus. Here's more.
During the Monsoon Session, three laws were passed, which the Centre said would enhance the farmers' income. But the protesters, who have been arguing that the laws will prove detrimental for their livelihoods, want nothing less than a repeal of the reforms. To force the government, they protested at Delhi's borders — their agitation has entered its 26th day on Monday.
Earlier, the protesters convened Bharat Bandh, which garnered support from several opposition parties. Last week, farmers went on a hunger strike. Informing about today's strike, Swaraj India's Yogendra Yadav (one of the faces of the protest) said, "It (hunger strike) will be started by a team of 11 members at protests' sites here." He urged people demonstrating against the laws to also participate.
The protesters have also urged the citizens to not eat one meal on Kisan Diwas (Wednesday) to honor those who put food on their tables three times a day. Yadav said farmers plan to bang thaalis on December 27 during Prime Minister Narendra Modi's radio program Mann Ki Baat. Jagjit Singh Dalewala from Bharatiya Kisan Union asked people to bang utensils at their homes.
"On December 27, when the Prime Minister gives his Mann Ki Baat radio address, farmers will say 'we are tired of listening to your Mann ki Baat, when will you listen to ours?" said Yadav.
Separately, Vivek Aggarwal, Joint Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers' Welfare, wrote a five-page letter to 40 farmers' leaders yesterday, reiterating that the government is seeking an appropriate solution with an "open heart." In the letter, Aggarwal urged leaders to share "details of their doubts," with respect to these laws, and suggest a date for talks at Vigyan Bhawan in New Delhi.
It should be recalled that the Centre and protesting farmers have spoken five times. All the talks have remained inconclusive thus far. On December 16, Sanyukt Kisan Morcha leader Darshan Pal had written an email to Aggarwal, informing that unions have rejected the December 9 proposal by the government as it was the same offer which the Centre had made verbally on December 5.
Meanwhile, last week, the Supreme Court took a jibe at the Centre, saying it has failed to make any headway in breaking the deadlock and predicted that its tactics are bound to fail. The apex court, which heard pleas both for and against the agitation, batted for an independent committee to end the impasse. The court also allowed farmers to protest without blocking Delhi.