Haryana Deputy Chief Minister Dushyant Chautala on Tuesday said the farmers’ opposition to the agriculture bills was based on a “misunderstanding”, The Indian Express reported. He said the rumour that the bills would do away with the Minimum Support Price for crops was false.
“A doubt was created in the minds of farmers that they are going to lose their Minimum Support Price,” Chautala, who is an ally of the Bharatiya Janata Party, said. “On our side, we are trying to remove their doubts. The government will purchase their crops at MSP and the farmer will be the happiest person.”
Chautala accused the Opposition parties of telling “white lies”, saying there was no truth in the claims that the farm bills were aimed at benefiting big corporates and ending the minimum support price system, PTI reported. The deputy chief minister also holds the portfolios of food, civil supplies and consumer affairs.
Chautala praised the Narendra Modi-led government for increasing the MSP. “I believe such a hike in MSP did not take place earlier,” he said. “[Former Haryana Chief Minister] Chaudhary Devi Lal had taught us how to make farmers prosper. It’s our responsibility to strengthen them further.”
Chautala said Prime Minister Narendra Modi too has assured that procurement of crops at MSP will continue as before, and mandis or markets will not stop operating. “By increasing the minimum support price of rabi crops, the Central government has shown that the MSP system will continue,” he said. Chautala said the purchase of Kharif crops from October 1 will also be done on MSP basis, and every single grain of the farmers of the state will be procured.
The comments came amid calls for Chautala to resign. Chautala’s Jannayak Janta Party has a farmers’ vote base. On Monday, Haryana Congress President Kumari Selja said, “The deputy chief minister, who used to do politics in farmers’ name, too is not raising voice because hanging on to power is more dear to him now.”
Opposition from allies and rivals alike
Other Bharatiya Janata Party allies such as the Shiromani Akali Dal have also opposed the three farm bills. SAD has decided to reevaluate its alliance with the BJP. Shiromani Akali Dal chief Sukhbir Singh Badal on Tuesday said the government may have refused to pay heed to Opposition leaders’ reservations about the contentious farming bills, but it should at least talk to farmers who have been vehemently protesting against the ordinances.
The Rajya Sabha on Sunday passed the Farmers’ and Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020 and Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, 2020 by a voice vote, despite opposition MPs asking for a division. The chaotic scenes at the Upper House over the manner in which the bills were passed has led to protests from Opposition parties across the country.
Beyond the contentious circumstances under which this voice vote took place, the agriculture legislations have brought farmers out on the streets, who fear the new policies would bring about corporate dominance. Critics say that these new agricultural policies will lead to farmers losing out on guaranteed purchase prices for their crops, to the benefit of large corporations. The government, however, claims that the bills would boost agricultural activity, make farming more profitable and eliminate the middleman system.