Centre holds meeting with farmers to find breakthrough in anti-farm laws protest
New Delhi/IBNS: A meeting between a three-member team of central ministers and the farmers, who are protesting against the Narendra Modi government's newly enacted farm laws, is underway on Tuesday.
Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar is present in the central team.
Though the talks are underway, the government has made it clear there would be no withdrawal of the farm laws that have triggered one of the massive protests in the country in years.
One of the Centre's new farm laws will now allow farmers to sell their produce to institutional buyers beyond the regulated wholesale market.
However, farmers and opposition leaders criticised the Centre's move stating small peasants will have little bargaining power while selling their produce to institutional buyers, running the risk of getting exploited.
The farmers, who are camped outside Delhi for several days, were earlier water cannoned and tear-gassed while they were marching towards the national capital.
Undeterred by the agitation, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday accused the Opposition of spreading lies and falsehoods leading to the ignition of the protest.
Modi said at an event in Varanasi, "The new farm laws will provide new alternatives and new legal protections to the farmers. The new farm laws' implementation doesn't mean discarding the old system."
"If someone thinks that the earlier system is better, how is this law stopping anyone, bhai?" he added, in a bid to assure the protesting farmers that the new open market system will not mean the end to the traditional mandis and minimum support prices fixed (MSP) by the government.
"India's farm produce is famous across the world. This is a big market and it means more money -- shouldn't they (the farmers) have this in reach?" the PM asked, adding: "Now all small farmers can opt for legal protection to save themselves from manipulation and corruption."
In a first international reaction to the massive protests by farmers, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Monday said his country will "defend the rights of peaceful protesters".
Trudeau said in an address, "I would remiss if I didn't start by recognising the news coming out of India about the protests by farmers. The situation is concerning and we are very worried about family and friends. We know that's a reality for many of you.
"Let me remind you. Canada will always be there to defend the rights of peaceful protesters. We believe in the importance of dialogue. We've reached out through multiple means to the Indian authorities to highlight our concerns. This is a moment for all of us to pull together."
Reacting sharply, India termed Trudeau's comment as "unwarranted".
"We have seen some ill-informed comments by Canadian leaders relating to farmers in India. Such comments are unwarranted, especially when pertaining to the internal affairs of a democratic country," the government said in a statement.
"It is also best that diplomatic conversations are not misrepresented for political purposes," read the statement.