New Delhi, Sep 18 : Likening farmers to the “Pandavas” and the Centre to the “Kauravas”, the Congress on Friday accused the government of trying to end minimum support price (MSP) through three new farm bills and asked political parties to decide with whom they want to stand.
The Congress also said that it will fight for farmers in Parliament as well as on the streets.
Lok Sabha has passed the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill, the Farmers” Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill and the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, which seek to promote barrier-free inter-state and intra-state trade in agricultural produce. These will now be tabled in the Rajya Sabha.
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi said farmers have lost faith in the Modi government as there is a difference between its deeds and actions.
This government wants to benefit its “friends” by attacking the lives and livelihood of farmers, he said.
Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said this fight has now become “the battle of truth” like the Mahabharata. Here the Modi government is like the “Kauravas” and the farmers are the “Pandavas”, he said.
He said various political parties will now have to decide whether they stand with the “Kauravas” or the “Pandavas” in this “dharam yudh” (battle of truth). Congress leader P Chidambaram said the laws passed by the government scuttle the MSP principle and undermine public procurement.
In a tweet in Hindi, Gandhi said, “Farmers have lost faith in the Modi government as there has been a difference in their deeds and actions right from the start – demonetisation, wrong GST and heavy tax on diesel.”
He also said that “awakened farmers know that with the agriculture bills, the Modi government will increase trade of its ”friends” and will attack the livelihood of farmers”.
Surjewala told reporters that Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the BJP were trying to mislead farmers and the people on the farm legislations which were “anti-farmer” and sought to “kill” farming.
“The prime minister is misleading the people and is anti-farmer. By bringing these “black laws”, the PM is attacking the farm sector and the lives and livelihood of farmers. PM Modi is trying to make farmers indebted to a select few of PM”s crony friends,” he said.
The BJP and Modi want to hand over the fate of farmers and farm labourers into the hands of a few crony capitalists, the spokesperson alleged.
“The armies are now standing against each other, with the Congress standing with the ”Pandavas”, who are the farmers, and against the Modi government and the BJP which are the ”Kauravas”,” Surjewala said.
“JD(U)”s Nitish Kumar, the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), TRS, AIADMK, JJP, YSRCP and every other political party will now have to decide on whether they are standing with the ”Kauravas” or the ”Pandavas”. The time has come to stand with farmers and farm labourers,” he said.
The Congress leader also asked whether the Food Corporation of India would pay MSP to farmers when mandis (wholesale markets) are not there. Farmers with small land holdings don”t have the money even to pay bus fares, how will they sell their produce in far-flung areas, as sought by these bills, Surejwala said.
“Who and to whom would you give MSP to? Will the FCI go to the farmer’s fields to give MSP,” he asked.
Surjewala also attacked SAD leader Harsimrat Kaur Badal for her “farce” of resigning from the Modi cabinet and questioned why she did not resign when the ordinances were brought in the cabinet in June.
Badal resigned on Thursday as the Union Minister for Food Processing Industries. “Why is Akali Dal still sitting with the BJP. Why do they not resign from the Lok Sabha.
This farcical drama would not work. Why does JJP”s Dushyant Chautala not resign and is still clinging to power,” Surjewala asked.
Chidambaram said the three pillars of food security are MSP, public procurement and Public Distribution System.
“The Farm Bills of the Modi government undermine the three pillars. The laws sought to be passed by the Modi government scuttle the MSP principle and undermine Public Procurement,” he said in a series of tweets.
“Will the TV anchors please point out the clause in the Farm Bills that stipulates that the price that the farmer will get from the purchaser “shall not be less than the MSP”? Will the TV anchors highlight the fact that the Congress Manifesto promised to create thousands of Farmers” Markets in small towns and large villages,” the Congress leader said.
To a question on the Congress promising to abolish the Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC) Act in its manifesto, spokesperson Surjewala said an attempt is being made to mislead people and farmers. Chidabaram said he was disappointed with BJP spokespersons” distortion of the Congress manifesto statement on APMC laws.
“Our Manifesto promised that we will create thousands of Farmers” Markets in small towns and large villages. Once that is accomplished, APMC laws can be changed. The way to liberalise agricultural marketing is to create more accessible markets and choice for the farmer. There will be rules to regulate such markets,” he said.
The former finance minister said the APMC system is indeed a safety net for the farmer but it is a restricted market that is not accessible to millions of farmers.
“We need to enlarge the market for agriculture produce while preserving the ”safety net” principle through MSP and public procurement,” he said.