Farmers Protest Latest Updates: As protesting farmers announced a four-hour nationwide rail blockade on February 18 with renewing their strategy to intensify agitation, PM Narendra Modi on Wednesday said the government and Parliament have great respect for farmers who are voicing their views on the three farm bills. While addressing the Lok Sabha, PM Modi asserted that he holds their agitation “sacred”, while making a fresh appeal to agitating farmers to resume talks with the Centre. Here are top development from the day: Also Read - 100 Days Or 100 Months: Congress Will Continue To Fight Till Farm Laws Are Rolled Back, Says Priyanka Gandhi

1) Issuing a statement earlier in the day, the Samyukta Kisan Morcha, which is spearheading the protest, said toll collection will not be allowed in Rajasthan from February 12 as part of their week-long protest strategy. Also Read - At Janaushadhi Centres, Women Can Buy Sanitary Pads at Rs 2.5 | All You Need to Know

2) Announcing a four-hour-long nationwide rail blockade on February 18, farmers said the protest included a candle march on February 14 in the memory of those killed in the 2019 Pulwama terrorist attack. SKM leader Darshan Pal said candle marches, Mashaal Juloos’ (torch marches) and other programmes will be held across the country on February 14 in respect of the sacrifices of the 40 CRPF personnel who were killed in a terrorist attack in Jammu and Kashmir’s Pulwama on February 14, 2019. Also Read - After PM Modi's Brigade Rally, BKU Leader Rakesh Tikait To Speak with Bengal Farmers on March 13

3) SKM leader Darshan Pal further said the farmers also will hold events in a show of solidarity on the birth anniversary of Sir Chhotu Ram — who was one of the most prominent pre-partition farmer leaders — on February 16. Earlier this month, the protesting farmers had observed a three-hour road blockade to press their demand of repealing the three laws.

4) Earlier in the day, Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) leader Rakesh Tikait asserted that the agitating farmers were not aiming at any change in power at the Centre but a solution to their problems as he said many of their leaders will tour different parts of the country to spread the movement.

5) Addressing the protesting farmers at Singhu border, Tikait said that the agitation against the farm laws will stretch till the Centre addresses their issues. Tikait said that the agitation will be long drawn and continue till government starts talks with farmer leaders.

6) The protesting farmer unions have been alleging the laws will weaken the MSP mechanism and end the mandi system. But the government says the new legislations offer more options to farmers to sell their crops, and will help raise their incomes.

7) The announcements by the protesting unions comes on a day Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that the government and Parliament have great respect for farmers who are voicing their views on the three farm laws.

8) Replying in Lok Sabha to the discussion on the Motion of Thanks to the President’s address to the joint sitting of Parliament, PM Modi staunchly defended the three contentious farms laws and attacked the opposition for “misleading” farmers, saying those who are disrupting the House are doing so as per a “well-planned strategy” as they are unable to digest that people can see the truth.

9) During his over 90-minute speech in Lok Sabha, PM Modi said his government is open to amending the laws if there are any shortcomings, noting that the farmer unions were offered to have a clause by clause discussion on all three Acts to address their apprehensions.

10) With agitating farmer unions criticising his use of ‘andolanjivi’ during his speech in Rajya Sabha on Monday, the Prime Minister sought to make a distinction between ‘andolankari’ (agitators) and ‘andolanjivi’, a barb for people who jump from one protest to another.

11) PM Modi also made a fresh appeal to agitating farmers to come to the table for talks before concluding his speech.

12) Hitting out at the protesting Congress members, he said those who are disrupting the House are doing so as per a “well-planned strategy” as they are unable to digest that people are seeing through the truth. “Through their games, the trust of the people can never be won,” he said, amidst protests by the opposition members.

13) As Modi explained his government’s stand on the farm laws, the Congress walked out of the House in the middle of his speech. Modi also hit out at opposition members who had asked why these Acts when they were not demanded by farmers, saying he was shocked at the argument and asserted that his government believes in continuously empowering people. No one had demanded laws against dowry or triple ‘talaq’, he said, adding that they were enacted as a requirement for a progressive society.