Mumbai: Former Union minister and NCP Chief Sharad Pawar will meet the President of India Ram Nath Kovind on Wednesday as the deadlock persists over the three farm laws between the agitating farmers and the Centre.
Left leaders Sitaram Yechury and D Raja, DMK MP TR Balu and RJD’s Manoj Jha will accompany Pawar to Rashtrapati Bhavan.
The development came even as Opposition parties, including many regional outfits, came out in strong support of the ‘Bharat Bandh' on December 8 called by farmer unions. The Congress, the NCP, the Shiv Sena, the TRS, the DMK, the SP and the AAP joined the Trinamool Congress, the RJD and the Left parties in supporting the strike call.
Pawar told the Free Press Journal, ‘‘Punjab and Haryana being the leading rice and wheat producers contribute to food security in a big way. A large number of farmers from these states have been protesting for more than 10 days against the three Central laws. The Central government should take the farmers’ issues seriously and act with maturity to settle them on a priority basis. A delegation will meet the President of India on December 9 to apprise him of the situation.’’
He said the NCP has extended its support to the proposed bandh.
‘’India is exporting food grains to 17-18 countries in which Punjab and Haryana are playing a big role. If farmers of Punjab and Haryana are protesting, the government should take cognizance. Unfortunately, that is not happening," said Pawar who will be camping in Delhi for two to three days since Monday.
Pawar warned that if the Centre continues to neglect the festering issue, the protest will not be restricted to Delhi alone, and everybody will support them soon.
‘‘People from all corners and sectors will stand behind these farmers. I still hope wisdom will prevail,’’ he noted.
‘‘When the Bills were being passed, we had requested the government that it shouldn’t show haste. The Bills should be sent to the Select Committee for a thorough discussion. However, that didn't happen and the Bills were passed in a hurry. Now, the government is facing problems because of that haste,” Pawar said.
The NCP had staged a walk-out in the Rajya Sabha when the three farm bills were introduced in September during Parliament's monsoon session.
After five rounds of talks failed to end the impasse, the two sides are again set to meet on December 9, a day after the countrywide strike. The government has sent out feelers that it may amend the farm laws but, the protesting farmers remained adamant on complete rollback and not mere amendments.
"This agitation is not that of Punjab farmers alone but that of the entire nation,’’ farmer leader Baldev Singh Yadav said at a press conference.
"Since the government was not able to respond properly, we gave a call for Bharat Bandh," he said as he assured that it won’t be allowed to turn violent.
During the bandh, shops and businesses will remain shut. Ambulances and other emergency services will be exempt. So will be weddings.
Meanwhile, India's first Olympic medallist in boxing Vijender Singh has threatened to return his Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award if the central government does not withdraw the farm laws.
In their joint statement, Sonia Gandhi and other opposition leaders said they were backing the call for Bharat Bandh and joining the farmers in demanding the withdrawal of these "retrograde" farm laws and the electricity Amendment bill.
Thousands of farmers are camping in the border areas of Delhi, blocking roads to the national capital.