SAD president Sukhbir Singh Badal and others booked for violating COVID-19 guidelines

CHANDIGARH: Shiromani Akali Dal president Sukhbir Singh Badal on Wednesday called on Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Tomar to hold unconditional talks with farmers, instead of “rubbing salt” into their wounds by rejecting their demand for the repeal of the Centre’s contentious farm laws.

The former Punjab deputy CM’s remarks have come a day after Tomar told reporters in Gwalior that the Centre is ready to hold talks with farmers on options other than the repeal of the farm laws.

Farmers have been agitating on Delhi borders against the Centre’s three new farm laws since November last year.

Asserting that the agitating farmers cannot hold talks on issues other than repeal of the three laws, Badal said, “This has already been made very clear to the Centre. The farmers have rejected all overtures which are aimed at destabilising the Kisan Andolan without accepting the core demand for repeal of the farm laws.”

“I appeal to Narendra Tomar to hold unconditional talks with the agitating farmers and accept their demands in the interest of the farming community,” he said in a statement here.

The Centre should hold talks with farmers instead of “rubbing salt” into their wounds by outrightly rejecting their demand for the repeal of the laws, he said.

Asking the Centre to be “sensitive to the pain and anguish of farmers”, the SAD chief said, “It is shocking that the NDA government is effectively telling farmers that there is no space for discussion in a democracy.”

It is equally shocking that besides ruling out any talks on taking back the three black laws, Tomar said that the laws are in the interest of farmers, the former Punjab deputy CM said.

Badal said it is unfortunate that the Centre has still not realised the ills of the agricultural laws despite holding a number of rounds of talks with farmer leaders.

“It seems the NDA government is firm in its desire to toe the line of the corporate sector which wants an end to the minimum support price system and assured government purchase of foodgrains.

There can be no other reason for rejecting the appeal of the Sanyukt Kisan Morcha to hold talks to resolve the crisis”, he said.

“This indicates that it is firm on being intransigent and not accepting the genuine demands of the farmers at any cost.

Simultaneously, the government has done everything within its power to suppress the peaceful and democratic movement and continues to attempt to dislodge farmers from the Singhu and Tikri protest sites,” he said.