New Delhi: Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Monday hit out at the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led government at the Centre for continuing “muting” of democratic India, “turning a blind eye to farmers’ concerns” over the contentious farm bills and bringing “economic disaster” for the country.
“Muting of Democratic India continues: by initially silencing and later, suspending MPs in the Parliament & turning a blind eye to farmers’ concerns on the black agriculture laws. This ‘omniscient’ Govt’s endless arrogance has brought economic disaster for the entire country,” tweeted Gandhi, who is away in the US accompanying his mother and Congress president, Sonia Gandhi, for a health check-up.
The tweet came after Rajya Sabha chairperson, M Venkaiah Naidu, suspended eight opposition lawmakers over protests on Sunday against the government’s move to rush through the contentious farm reform bills.
The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill and the Farming Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill were cleared by voice vote in Rajya Sabha even as the Opposition members protested. The members stormed the Well of the House demanding that the bills be sent to a select committee for a review. Opposition leaders charged towards Rajya Sabha’s deputy chairman Harivansh’s seat as he was presiding over the proceedings. They jumped onto tables and shot videos of the ruckus.
The bills seek to allow farmers more flexibility in selling their produce. Many experts have hailed the reforms as significant, but some farmer bodies and opposition parties have insisted the new laws would only benefit corporate entities and traders and not the farmers.
The minimum support price (MSP) regime has not been mentioned in the legislation. It has triggered fears the new laws will weaken the existing regime set by the government to purchase produce directly from farmers.
In a series of tweets related to the legislation, Congress leader P Chidambaram separately questioned Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his government how will they guarantee the MSP to the farmers.
“The PM [Modi] and other ministers have promised that MSP will be guaranteed to the farmer. Pray tell us HOW? How will the government know which farmer sold what produce to which trader?” he asked. “There will be millions of private transactions every day in thousands of villages all over India. How will the government guarantee MSP is paid in these transactions? Under which law is a private purchaser obliged to pay MSP to the farmer in a private transaction?”
Chidambaram said the Modi government should stop lying to the farmers and making false promises. “The promise of guaranteeing MSP in private transactions is like the promise to deposit Rs 15 lakh in the bank account of every Indian,” he said.
Chidambaram was referring to a speech Modi gave in 2014 election as the prime ministerial candidate in which he promised to bring back black money stashed in foreign banks within 100 days of coming to power. He had said that if all the black money was brought back, it would be enough to deposit Rs 15 lakh in every poor person’s bank account.
The Congress has separately called a meeting of its general secretaries and in-charges of states to discuss the future course of action on the farm bills and give a final shape to its proposed nationwide agitation on the farm reforms issue. The meeting will be held in the absence of Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi at the party headquarters in Delhi. Six members of the party’s special committee–AK Antony, Ahmed Patel, Ambika Soni, KC Venugopal, Mukul Wasnik, and Randeep Singh Surjewala–will attend the meeting.