Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar has said that he hopes the farmers’ unions protesting against the Centre’s farm laws would eventually see the benefits of the contentious legislations and resume a dialogue with the government, the Hindustan Times reported on Sunday.
Several rounds of talks between the farmers and the government have remained inconclusive. Farmers are demanding a complete withdrawal of the farm laws while the government has proposed amendments to it. In an interview with the newspaper, Tomar said the essence of the laws still remain.
“The essence of the laws is still there,” the Union minister said. “But whatever we could do to find ways to resolve the concerns of farmers has been done. We have made that attempt through the amendments. The reforms were aimed at increasing competition; so far only licensed traders could buy in the mandis, now everyone can. As competition increases, the farmers will get better remuneration.”
Tomar said the government has done all it can to address the concerns of the farmers. “It is also natural that when the farmers are protesting and there are some concerns that they have, it is our duty to allay their fears and address their concerns,” he said.
The minister called the farmers’ apprehension about the entry of private companies and individuals “baseless”. “So far in states such as Maharashtra, Punjab, Haryana, Gujarat and Karnataka contract farming is already being practised...no one’s land has been grabbed,” he said. “In the act we have made a provision that the farmer can opt out of the contract, but the buyers cannot; they cannot renege on the contract and if they do, then they have to pay a penalty of 150%.”
Tomar exuded confidence in the farm laws, saying that it was important that whenever a government does something good, there is a period of struggle and pain. “Those who move ahead of times make history and those who believe in status quo cannot make history,” he said.
He suggested that many Left-affiliated organisations have infiltrated the protests. “There are those who are seeking the release of those who are anti-national,” the minister said. “These elements are not allowing the talks to come to fruition. Are those raising slogans for Sharjeel Imam farmers? These are Leftists who oppose every reform announced by Narendra Modi...It has become a fashion for them to oppose whatever good is being proposed to strengthen the country.”
Farm law protests
The Parliament had passed 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 – in September. They were signed into laws by President Ram Nath Kovind on September 27.
Tens of thousands of farmers, mostly from Punjab and Haryana, have been protesting at key entry points to Delhi for more than 15 days against the laws. The farmers fear the agricultural reforms will weaken the minimum support price mechanism under which the government buys agricultural produce, will lead to the deregulation of crop-pricing, deny them fair remuneration for their produce and leave them at the mercy of corporations. The government, on the other hand, maintains that the new laws will give farmers more options in selling their produce, lead to better pricing, and free them from unfair monopolies.
Opposition parties have also criticised the reforms, saying they would benefit big business and not farmers. They have also urged President Ram Nath Kovind to ask the government to accept farmers’ demands.