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MSP will stay, but it was never part of law: Agriculture Minister

By Smita Prakash
Last updated on: September 24, 2020 11:34 IST
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The farm bills will bring revolutionary changes in the lives of farmers as they can sell their produce to any buyer, get a guarantee of price of their crops, go for crop diversification, use new technology and reduce their input costs, said agriculture minister Narendra Singh Tomar.

In an exclusive interview with ANI, Tomar said the Narendra Modi government has provided freedom to farmers through the bills.

He said the bills will free farmers from chains of the Agricultural Produce Market Committee or APMC.

"Small farmers can now get a guarantee of their produce during the sowing of the crop. They can now go for expensive crops, use new technology, new seeds, good pesticides and reduce the input cost. These bills are crucial and will bring revolutionary changes in the lives of farmers. I want to tell farmers that when provisions of these bills will be implemented, there will change in their lives," he said.

The minister rejected opposition criticism over the bills and asserted that minimum support price or MSP and APMC will continue as in the past.

He said the Prime Minister Narendra Modi government had taken several steps in the interest of farmers but it was felt that until there is a change in laws, farmers would not be adequately benefitted.

"That is why the government brought two ordinances and now they have become bills." he said.

The Farmers' Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020 and the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, 2020 were passed by Parliament on Sunday.

There were protests and ruckus by the opposition members in  Rajya Sabha during the passage of the bills.

 

A third bill related to agriculture, which amends the Essential Commodities Act, was also passed by Parliament during the monsoon session, which concluded on Wednesday.

The three bills seek to replace ordinances brought by the government earlier.

Tomar targeted the Congress over its attack on the government over the bills and its demand for inclusion of the MSP in the legislations and said the MSP has never been part of a law.

"Purchase on the MSP will continue. We have already announced the MSP for Rabi crops. I want to ask them whether MSP was part of any law before. The Congress was in power for 50 years, why did they not put MSP into law? MSP is not part of any law. Since Congress has nothing to say on bills, that's why they are talking about MSP," he said.

Tomar said there should be no politics on issues concerning farmers.

"When we talk about farmers, there should not be politics on it. There has been a lot of injustice and exploitation of farmers. The Modi government has provided the freedom to farmers through these bills," he said.

The minister said farmers will benefit because there will be no tax if the trade is taking place outside mandis and they will have the freedom to choose their way.

"Farmers do farming and take their produce to mandis (markets). There are 25-30 people with licences in these mandis. They do auction of produce. Whatever price is decided in the auction, farmers were bound to sell their produce at that price whether they were happy or not because if they decide to take their produce and go home and come back again, they will have to pay additional logistics cost.

"Farmers were facing problems. Our Act allows farmers to sell their produce to anyone anywhere according to their will. There is a tax in APMCs. Under the bills, there will be no tax of either the state government or central government on trade outside APMC," he said.

Referring to the mechanism in case of a dispute between the farmer and trader, Tomar said the Sub Divisional Magistrate will resolve the issue within 30 days.

He said there is full protection to the farmer under the bill.

"If a farmer wants to come out of the agreement, he can do so. But a trader cannot pull out of the agreement. The trader can only leave the agreement after paying the farmer the price he had promised. There is full protection of farmers in these bills. There cannot be any action concerning farmers' land. If there is any dispute, recovery can only be done of the money, which the farmer has taken for growing the crop," he said.

Referring to the steps taken by the ruling National Democratic Alliance for farmers, he said they are "the top priority of the government".

He said that Rs 93,000 crores has been given to farmers till now under the PM KISAN scheme.

"The prime minister talked about doubling the income of farmers by 2022. The centre has been working in a mission mode," he said.

Tomar said the government will spend Rs 6,850 crores for 10,000 new farmer producer organizations (FPOs) and asserted that they will bring revolution in the field of agriculture.

"Nobody had thought that Rs 1 lakh crore infrastructure fund will be announced for the agriculture. But Modiji announced this fund. On August 9, the Prime Minister approved Rs 1,128 crores to develop infrastructure for FPOs," he said.

'Congress leadership is stunted'

Launching a strong attack on Congress over its opposition to agriculture bills, Tomar said the Congress leadership has become stunted, it does not understand agriculture and the party is trying to mislead farmers for its own vested interests.

He said the opposition party does not listen to good people within and its leadership is in hands those who are not heard by people.

"Main samajhta hun ki Congress natritav bauna ho gaya hai (I feel Congress leadership has become stunted)," Tomar said.

"Neither do they understand agriculture nor the good or bad of the country. The good people in Congress are not being heard and the leadership of the party is in the hands of those to whom people do not listen, even inside the party. That is why they are trying to mislead the country by saying this and that," Tomar said.

He said Congress leaders were trying to mislead the farmers, because they feel that the work which they could not do for years under the UPA is being done now.

"They could have done it, but they couldn't gather courage," he said.

Tomar said that former prime minister Manmohan Singh and former agriculture minister Sharad Pawar wanted to bring reforms but could not do so under pressure.

"Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar wanted to do it, they wanted to, but under pressure from some people they could not do it," he said.

Tomar said Congress "is irrelevant now, it is trying to rejuvenate itself but the people have rejected them and they will reject it again on this issue".

The Opposition parties, including the Congress have been demanding that the government should roll back the farm reform bills.

Tomar termed the protest by the Opposition as "purely political" and devoid of any real arguments.

He also slammed Punjab chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh over his remarks on farm bills.

"The Punjab CM is giving political statements. I want to ask him when he was fighting elections why did he keep it in his manifesto that APMC will be changed, tax will be ended and inter-state sale will be promoted," Tomar said.

"The Congress kept it in its national as well as state manifestos. Any Congress leader, whether national or state level, should first say that they are going back on the promises made in their manifesto, then I am ready to hear their arguments else their arguments are not worthy of being heard, they are misleading and are meant to confuse the farmers," he added.

He urged the Opposition parties to let "justice be finally delivered to farmers". "Please let them be free," he said.

Tomar also said that the controversy being created is purely political in nature and also slammed the behaviour of the Opposition leaders inside the Rajya Sabha.

"All of this is purely political. In the Lok Sabha, discussions were held for four hours and the Bills were passed. In the Rajya Sabha too, 4-4.5 hours discussion were held, every party's leaders expressed their opinions, then the Deputy Chairman asked me to reply. Suddenly in an undemocratic manner, they tried to disrupt the session, they did a cowardly act with the Deputy Chairman and misbehaved with him," Tomar said.

The opposition has argued that the bills would threaten minimum support price (MSP) and, in turn, would leave the same small and marginal farmers in the hands of corporates and large-scale institutional buyers.

The BJP leader said that the Congress and other leaders opposing the Bill had not mentioned its provisions even once during the course of discussions in both the Houses.

"Discussions were held in both the Houses, they did not speak even once on the Bill. The treasury benches welcomed it, but the Opposition said they wanted MSP, APMC should be ended, the farmers are doing such and such things. That is why I too gave a political reply in the Rajya Sabha," he said.

He said there was no need to send the bill to a select committee and the bill would give farmers the freedom they have been devoid of since years.

"Congress kept them devoid of these rights. So if Narendra Modi wants to give them this right today and the transactions can happen without tax, what problems can anyone have, what will the Select Committee do?" he asked.

The Opposition parties have urged the Centre to introduce a fourth Bill in Parliament assuring MSP to farmers for their produce.

Opposition members had also resorted to boycott of proceedings of Parliament in the last two days over their opposition to farm bills.

Eight opposition MPs were also suspended by the Rajya Sabha Chairman on Monday over the ruckus and the unruly scenes in the house on Sunday.

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Smita Prakash
Source: ANI
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