Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Sunday said farmers would not be protesting if they were happy with the new farm laws, reported ANI. “If farmers are happy with these laws then why are they protesting across the nation,” Gandhi asked. “Why is every farmer in Punjab protesting?”

Gandhi, who is on a three-day visit to Punjab and Haryana, launched a tractor rally to support protesting farmers. He is scheduled to address two public rallies that are likely to gain attendance of around 10,000 farmers in Moga and Ludhiana. He will also lead a tractor rally, with at least 3,000 of them joining him in Moga and 2,000 in Ludhiana, reported The Indian Express.

The protest rally, called “Kheti Bachao Yatra”, will begin from Badhni Kalan in Moga, and Gandhi will reportedly drive a tractor for 52 km for three days. The final tour of the demonstration is yet to be finalised.

“What was the need to implement these laws amid Covid-19,” the former Congress chief questioned. “What was the haste? If you had to implement you should have discussed in Lok Sabha-Rajya Sabha. [The] prime minister says laws are being framed for farmers. If it is the case, why didn’t you discuss it openly in the House.”

Gandhi also attacked the Bharatiya Janata Party-ruled Centre about the Hathras gangrape case, saying that no action was taken against the accused. “Family whose daughter was killed is locked up in their house,” he added, according to ANI. “District magistrate and chief minister threatened them. Such is the situation in India. Nothing happens to a criminal but action is taken against the victim.”

Gandhi promised Punjab farmers that the Congress will remove the contentious farm laws once it came to power in the Centre. “This is a kathputli [puppet] government whose strings are in the hands of the Adanis and Ambanis,” he added.

Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh, party’s state unit chief Sunil Jakhar, Congress General Secretary KC Venugopal and party leaders Harish Rawat and Navjot Singh Sidhu also participated at the event in Moga.

Gandhi said that the central government’s aim was to destroy the pillars that supported procurement of food grains, minimum support price and government-controlled wholesale markets, reported NDTV.

Opposition acting as middlemen for middlemen: Prakash Javadekar

Meanwhile, Union minister Prakash Javadekar claimed that political parties opposing the new farm laws were acting as “middlemen for middlemen”, reported PTI. “Sometimes I feel the opposition parties have become middlemen for middlemen,” he said, adding that the protests will subside on their own.

“Falsehood has limited life while truth lives forever,” the Union minister said. “The Congress and Nationalist Congress Party launched their campaign to protest against the farm bills. I am going to ask them to look at their manifesto. Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has spoken about such [agricultural] reforms in his speeches. But, the Congress has now done a u-turn.”

He accused the Opposition of spreading rumours that Agriculture Produce Market Committees will be shut down. “All these are lies,” he said. Javadekar added that the behaviour of the Opposition leaders in Rajya Sabha during the passage of farm bills was “condemnable and shameful”.

His comments came three days after Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said that the Centre was open to discussions with farmers’ groups to allay their fears about the three new farm laws.

Protests against the new farm laws

There have been widespread protests throughout the country this week against the farm laws. Opposition parties led by the Congress have joined in these protests and sought a repeal of the farm laws. Earlier this week, Congress President Sonia Gandhi asked state governments ruled by her party to pass legislation to override the Centre’s farm laws.

The Shiv Sena-led government in Maharashtra on September 30 withdrew its August order to implement new farm laws in the state, after facing pressure from its allies, the Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party.

The BJP’s ally Shiromani Akali Dal walked out of the alliance last month citing its opposition to the farm laws. Shiromani Akali Dal President Sukhbir Singh Badal also asked all Opposition parties to jointly fight for the farmers’ cause. On Friday, Shiromani Akali Dal leader Harsimrat Kaur Badal was arrested during a protest against the farming laws.

The three ordinances – Farmers Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion & Facilitation) Ordinance 2020, The Farmers (Empowerment & Protection) Assurance and Farm Service Ordinance 2020 and The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Ordinance 2020 – passed on June 5, were converted into law by the Parliament in the third week on September, amid vehement protests.

The legislations loosen regulations on the sale, pricing and storage of agricultural produce. They allow farmers to sell outside mandis notified by the Agricultural Produce Market Committee. They enable contract farming through deals with private sector companies. They take food items like cereals and pulses off the list of essential commodities, lifting stock limits on such produce.

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