Half the protest of farmers will be over if the minimum price guaranteed by the government (MSP) is made a right by law, Akali Dal's Harsimrat Kaur Badal said on Thursday, questioning, "What's wrong in giving the people what they are asking for". The government, she said, had missed the bus for resolving the issue before it blew up and now, instead of "standing on its ego", it should "listen to the farmers and bring in a bill which would be welcomed by all".
Ms Badal, a senior minister in the Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government who resigned over the farm laws, told NDTV that the farmers are resolute and will not back down. What they want is not much, she said. The demand for statutory right to the minimum support price for their crops -- which they fear will be phased out once the new farm laws kick in -- had once been supported by PM Modi, she said.
"The Prime Minister, when he was the Chief Minister of Gujarat in 2011, was the chairman of the Working Committee constituted by (then Prime Minister) Dr Manmohan Singh, and the biggest recommendation he gave was to make MSP a statutory right. Today he is the PM and can implement his own recommendation," Ms Badal said. "That's what the farmers are agitating about. Half the agitation will be over there and then," she added.
Over the last eight days, thousands of farmers have made their way from Punjab and Haryana to Delhi in an unprecedented protest against the Centre's contentious farm laws. Water cannons in a cold wave, tear gas and police batons, nothing had stopped them.
The government, Ms Badal said, had not listened to them, and tried to stop them by force even when they were holding a completely peaceful protest.
The former minister said she feels "saddened and anguished at the treatment meted out to thee farmers, who are the 'annadatas' of the nation".
In 1960s, India used to beg for food from the US "and they sent us food fit for their animals," she said. The situation improved only after the farmers of Punjab brought in the Green Revolution.
Accusing the government of making an unilateral decision and pushing through the laws, she said the government should now "back off from its rigid stand".
The fourth meeting between the government and the farmers on Thursday was unable to achieve a breakthrough. The farmers said they will hold a meeting on Friday, after which they will ask the government about its stance one final time.
"We will ask the government tomorrow whether they will scrap the law and if they refuse, we may not attend the December 5 meeting," said Jagmohan Singh, the general secretary of Bharatiya Kisan Union (Dakaunda).