Farmers' protests: Tomar says will find solution soon; agitating unions downplay SC suggestion

Tomar said the government was open for talks with agriculturists 24 hours, but the Congress and Leftist parties are bent on maligning the image of the Narendra Modi government.

Published: 16th December 2020 08:51 PM  |   Last Updated: 16th December 2020 10:01 PM   |  A+A-

Narendra Singh Tomar

Union Agriculture minister Narendra Singh Tomar addresses the media in Delhi on Thursday. (Photo | Shekhar Yadav, EPS)


GWALIOR: Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar on Wednesday said farmers in the entire country are supporting the three agri laws but cultivators from Punjab are being "misled" into protest by Opposition, even as he expressed hope to find a solution "soon" to the ongoing impasse.

Speaking to reporters here, Tomar said talks were being held with farmer organisations, including those from Punjab, and a "solution will be found soon".

"We are talking to farmer organisations and also those from Punjab. We will soon find a solution on the issue. The opposition is trying to mislead farmers, but it will not succeed," Tomar said.

He said the new agriculture reforms will change the lives of the farmers.

"Majority of farmers in the country are supporting the new farm laws. Many organisations have met me on this issue. Farmers of Punjab are a little angry, but we will find a solution soon," the minister said.

Later, addressing a programme under the BJP's campaign to educate farmers on the farm laws, Tomar said the government was open for talks with agriculturists 24 hours, but the Congress and Leftist parties are bent on maligning the image of the Narendra Modi government.

"Farmers in the entire country are supporting the new agriculture laws but the Opposition is misleading cultivators from Punjab and therefore they are agitating," Tomar said.

Thousands of farmers, particularly from Punjab and Haryana, are protesting for more than two weeks against the three farm laws, saying the new legislation will lead to the dismantling of the MSP (Minimum Support Price) and mandi systems and leave them at the mercy of corporates.

Tomar said the Congress had announced in its manifesto about introducing new agriculture laws, "but when the Modi government has done that, they are having problems".

"There are mostly small farmers in the country and recently the government allocated Rs 1. 5 lakh crore under the head 'farmers' infrastructure' so that they can do world class farming, and to achieve this purpose, it was necessary to change the old agri laws," the Union minister said.

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Tomar claimed the agri laws will not only change the face of agriculture, but also of the country.

"The Modi government is sensitive towards the problems of farmers and it has asked farmers to point out provisions which they feel are harmful to them (their interests)," the BJP leader said.

The Congress and Left parties are taking advantage of the farmers' protest and are trying to malign the image of the government, he said.

The Union minister said farmers from Madhya Pradesh are supporting these laws while their counterparts in Punjab were being misled on the issue, following which they are agitating.

"When the Modi government came to power in 2014, it had clearly stated that the mandate was to transform the country and not just to run a government, and strong decisions had to be taken to achieve this purpose," he said.

When the Modi government took decisions like demonetisation of banknotes of higher denominations and the implementation of GST, the Opposition had said the government will not get re-elected, but in 2019, the BJP returned with more seats, Tomar said.

He said the government had decided MSP (Minimum Support Price) on the basis of a report of the M S Swaminathan Committee.

"Earlier, the MSP was given only for wheat and rice, but now it has been given to many other crops also," he said.

Addressing the meeting, Rajya Sabha MP Jyotiraditya Scindia said the Modi government introduced new farm laws to make farmers "aatmanirbhar" (self-reliant).

"In the past, cultivators had to stand in queues for getting seeds and fertilisers, but now these items available to them before time," the Rajya Sabha MP said.

Scindia highlighted various steps taken by PM Modi and Shivraj Singh Chouhan government in Madhya Pradesh to strengthen the agriculture sector.

"The Congress in its poll manifesto had promised to change the agriculture laws when Sharad Pawar was Union agriculture minister, but they have changed tune when in opposition. People and farmers of the country will give them a befitting reply on the issue," he said.

Meanwhile, Protesting farmer unions Wednesday said constituting a new panel to break the stalemate on the three new agri laws, as indicated by the Supreme Court, is not a solution as they want a complete withdrawal of the legislations.

They also said the government should have formed a committee of farmers and others before the laws were enacted by Parliament.

Their assertions came after the Supreme Court indicated earlier in the day that it may form a panel having representatives of the government and farmer unions to resolve the deadlock.

Abhimanyu Kohar, a leader of the Rashtriya Kisan Mazdoor Sabha which is one of 40 protesting farmer unions, said they have already rejected a recent government offer to form such a panel.

"Setting up a new committee by the court is not a solution. We just want a complete repeal of the three agriculture laws. Earlier, there have been several rounds of talks between a group of Central ministers and farmer unions, which was like a committee itself," Kohar told PTI.

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Taking to Twitter, Swaraj India leader Yogendra Yadav, who is also a member 'Sankyukt Kisan Morcha', said, "The SC can and must decide on the constitutionality of the 3 farm acts. But it is not for the judiciary to decide on the feasibility and desirability of these laws. That's between the farmers and their elected leaders. SC monitored negotiation would be a wrong path."

In another tweet, he said, "This amounts to resurrecting a proposal made by the Govt on 1st December which farmers organisations had rejected unanimously."

The Sankyukt Kisan Morcha is an umbrella body of 40 protesting farmer unions.

Bhartiya Kisan Union (Ekta Ugrahan), which has been leading the agitation at Tikri Border, said that there would be no meaning of a new committee now.

"We will be in the new committee only after the government first repeals the three laws. The government should have formed a committee of farmers and others before enacting the new agriculture laws. There will be no meaning of new committee at this stage," BKU Ekta Ugrahan's Punjab general secretary Sukhdev Singh said.

However, Bharatiya Kisan Union leader Rakesh Tikait said, "We have only seen media reports about the SC order as of now. We want to first see an authentic copy of the order and then see what the government has to say. Only then can we comment on this."

Earlier in the day, the Supreme Court indicated that it may form a committee having representatives of the government and farmer unions across the country to resolve the deadlock.

The top court was hearing a batch of applications seeking a direction to authorities to immediately remove the farmers from the roads, saying commuters were facing hardships due to the blockades and the gatherings might lead to an increase in the number of COVID-19 cases.

"Your negotiations have not worked apparently. It is bound to fail. You are saying you are willing to negotiate," a bench headed by Chief Justice S A Bobde told Solicitor General Tushar Mehta.

Mehta, who is representing the Centre, replied, "Yes, we are willing to talk to farmers." Thousands of farmers have been camping at Delhi border points for the last 20 days now in protest against the three laws that they claim will lead to a dismantling of the mandi system and the Minimum Support Price mechanism, apprehensions that the government has been saying are misplaced.

On Tuesday, the leaders of the agitating farmers had asserted they will "make" the Centre repeal the three new agri laws in a hardening of their stand.

Enacted in September, the three farm laws have been projected by the government as major reforms in the agriculture sector that will remove the middlemen and allow farmers to sell anywhere in the country.

Puri, Nadda extend olive branches to farmers

Union minister Hardeep Singh Puri on Wednesday appealed to protesting farmers to resume talks with the central government to discuss their "genuine" demands, saying this is not the time to remain "adamant".

Addressing a virtual 'kisan sammelan', he asserted that the Narendra Modi-led government was taking several steps in the interest of the farming community.

"We are ready to hold talks with them (farmers) to discuss their genuine demands. We are ready to find a solution of this problem, but it is necessary that the farmer brothers join the talks again and put forth their points face to face," he said.

Thousands of farmers from Punjab, Haryana and elsewhere have been protesting near various border points of Delhi, including Singhu and Tikri, for over a fortnight demanding that the Centre repeal three new farm laws.

The Housing and Urban Affairs minister said the Centre had given assurance on the issues of minimum support price (MSP) and mandi system, as well as dispute resolution to the agitating farmers.

"If they have anything more to discuss, then come. But this is not the time to remain adamant," he said in an apparent reference to the farmers' demand of repealing the farm laws.

Puri said everybody has the right to hold protest in a democracy.

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"But there is also a way to hold protest. If you bring tractors near the national capital, that is not protest," he said.

Notably, the Centre had proposed to give "written assurance" that the existing MSP regime for procurement would continue.

The government had also proposed to make necessary amendments on at least seven issues, including one to allay fears about the weakening of the mandi system.

However, farmers' bodies have been seeking that the three farm laws be repealed while rejecting the government's proposals.

Meanwhile, Puri praised the farmers of Punjab, Haryana and western Uttar Pradesh for bringing Green Revolution through their hard work.

He urged the Punjab BJP leadership to sit with the farmers and ask them if they believe that they will get relief with the amendments proposed by the government.

Punjab BJP chief Ashwani Sharma said the BJP-led government at the Centre is always with the farmers.

"But some people are playing politics over this issue," he alleged.

Puri said the agriculture budget under the BJP-led regime grew six times to Rs 1.34 lakh crore in the last six years.

The foodgrain production which was 251 million tonnes in 2015-16 is now about 296 million tonnes, he added.

Lauding the Union Cabinet's nod for Rs 3,500 crore subsidy for sugar mills, BJP president J P Nadda said on Wednesday that farmers' interest is always the top priority for the Modi government.

He also noted that Rs 6,700 crore has been approved for consolidation of electricity infrastructure for socio-economic development in all the six northeast states.

The national security directive on the telecommunication sector has also been approved and it will help in keeping India safe and secure, the BJP chief said.

The government on Wednesday approved a subsidy of Rs 3,500 crore to sugar mills for the export of 60 lakh tonnes of the sweetener during the ongoing marketing year 2020-21 as part of its efforts to help them clear outstanding dues to sugarcane farmers.

Nadda said, "Today's Cabinet announcement of export subsidy on sugar not only solves the problem of excess production but also gives Rs 27,000 crore, approx, to five crore sugarcane farmers and benefits 5 lakh labourers.


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