Farm laws not flawed, protesters misled, says Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh TomarFebruary 6, 2021
Agriculture minister Narendra Singh Tomar on Friday said the government’s willingness to amend the farm laws should not be construed as a realisation that the laws are flawed, and added that the ongoing over two-month-long agitation is not a nationwide one but limited to just one state (Punjab).
In a speech in the Rajya Sabha, the content and tone of which signalled the government is in no mood to accede to the agitating farmers’ demand for repeal of the laws, the minister said: “We have not uttered a single objectionable word against them (protesting farmers). We have considered their views with respect and sensitivity. We have asked them to point out the provisions to which they have objections. People in one state (Punjab) are victims of misconception…they are being misled to believe that these laws will take away their rights over agricultural land.”
Tomar challenged the Opposition to point out any provision in the law on contracts farming that allows ‘snatching away’ the farmers’ land rights by traders.
The Supreme Court last month stayed the implementation of the three farm laws and appointed a committee of experts to submit a report after talking to all the stakeholders. Still, the agitating farmers have decided to continue with the stir demanding repeal of the laws.
They also rejected the Centre’s offer to continue the discussion after accepting the government’s proposal to withhold the laws for 12-18 months.
Even after the violence during the Republic Day tractor rally, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on January 30 had said the Centre’s offer to put on hold the three agriculture-marketing laws for 12-18 months still holds. However, the Samyukt Kisan Morcha (United Farmers’ Front) have decided to continue the agitation and have called a three-hour “chakka jam” (traffic blockade) on highways on Saturday.
The Samyukt Kisan Morcha has also said there can be no formal talks with the government until the police and administration’s ‘harassment’ of the farmers is immediately stopped. It has demanded restoration of internet services and unconditional release of farmers among other conditions for the resumption of the dialogue.
Taking on the Opposition in the Upper House, Tomar said the Narendra Modi-led government is committed to welfare of farmers and to the continuation of the mandi system of procurement of crops on minimum support price (MSP) based mechanism.
Without naming Punjab, where the mandi tax/cess is the highest in the country at 6%, the minister said: “The agitation should have been against the tax levied (by state government) on sale made in APMC-run mandis, but strangely the protests are against the Centre which removed such taxes through the farm laws.”
Tomar also described how different schemes of the government have benefited the farmers to help achieve the objective of doubling their income by 2022.
When Anand Sharma of the Congress urged the minister to increase the budgetary allocation for PM-Kisan for FY22 – which is lower than the FY21 level by Rs 10,000 crore — Tomar said funds won’t be a problem if more farmers are registered.
So far, only 10.75 crore farmers have been registered under the scheme despite best efforts of the government, even as the target is to cover as many as 14 crore land-owning farmers. The Centre directly transfers Rs 6,000/year in three equal instalments into the bank accounts of PM-Kisan beneficiaries.
Earlier the day, various Opposition parties such as Shiv Sena, Shiromani Akali Dal, Nantionalist Congress Party (NCP), Samajwadi Party and the Left parties demanded in the Rajya Sabha that the three new farm laws be repealed and fresh ones brought after wider consultations. Participating in the debate on the Motion of Thanks on the President’s address, the Opposition MPs attacked the government for dubbing the farmers protesting against the farm laws as “anti-nationals” and for “defaming” their agitation.