The Centre's new farm laws are designed to "destroy" the agriculture sector and hand it over to three or four crony capitalists, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi alleged on Tuesday and asserted that the only solution to the farmers' issue is to repeal the legislations.
Addressing a press conference, he said he was a patriot who did not fear anyone, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and asserted he had a clean record and nobody could touch him. "They can shoot me, but can't touch me. I am a patriot and I protect my country, and I will keep doing it," he said.
The former Congress chief also said there is a tragedy unfolding in the country that will lead to creation of monopolies in every sector, including agriculture, with a few individuals owning everything and the brunt of which will be borne by the middle class, who will have to pay high prices. There is just one solution that these three laws will have to be repealed, Gandhi said when asked about the impasse in talks between the government and the protesting farmers.
In a scathing attack on Prime Minister Narendra Modi, he said this country is now owned by a small group of people who he termed as crony capitalists having "a close relationship with the prime minister". "There is a tragedy unfolding in our country today, the government wants to ignore this tragedy, it wants to misinform people but the truth is that a huge tragedy is unfolding," he said.
Explaining further, he said what the country is witnessing is that industry across the board — be it airports, infrastructure, telecom, retail — are having "massive monopolies" being created with three or four people now owning this country. "The thing to understand is that this is not about farmers. This is about the creation of massive monopolies in this country that are going to take away the wealth from the people of India; this is the crux of it. Tell me one industry in India which is not monopolized by the same 5-6 people. The farmers are the first step, but, you will see that after them, India will not be able to produce jobs, as the Indian economy has gone from the best performance to the worst performance," he said.
"The last bastion that was protected by monopoly is being overrun and the three new laws that have been passed, are designed to destroy Indian agriculture, by destroying mandis, by destroying essential commodities act and by making sure that no Indian farmer can go to court," Gandhi said. Noting that agriculture is not just what is grown in the farms, he said it is the biggest business in India with 60 percent of people being in this sector.
Gandhi also released a booklet highlighting the "plight" of farmers in the wake of the Centre's three farm laws. He alleged that the laws will put the entire agriculture sector in the hands of "three to four crony capitalists".
Asserting that people are not understanding the implications of these laws, he said this will result in three or four people owning the entire agriculture sector, farmers not getting the value they deserve and the mandi system destroyed. "Three or four businessmen will be able to store millions and millions of tonnes of wheat, rice, other essential commodities and my friends in the middle class, you will be paying prices you have never imagined," he said.
The Congress leader said the rice and wheat that people buy comes at a low price due to the APMC Act. "So this (the laws) is not an assault on the farmers, this is an assault on the middle class and every youngster that will not be able to find a job," he said, adding that he is trying to explain this to youth to make them realise that their independence is being taken away. "I support the protesting farmers 100 per cent and every single person in the country should support them as they are fighting for us," he said, adding that the country should realise this before it loses independence once again.
"This is what I want to tell youngsters, realise your independence is being taken away, realise this happened before and we fought this and everything that we have today is because of the fight that we have fought and the exact same thing is happening to India today," he said, referring to India's independence struggle against the British. Hitting back at BJP president J P Nadda for his tweets earlier in the day criticising him, the Congress leader said it was an "attempted distraction". The farmers know that it was Rahul Gandhi who stood up in Bhatta Parsaul and over the land acquisition issue, not BJP leader Nadda, he said.
Again pressed about Nadda's attack, he said, "Is JP Nadda my professor that I am answerable to him. Who is he? Is he a professor or teacher of India, why should I answer him, I answer the country, I answer the farmers who can ask me anything," he said. As regards reforms in the agri sector, he said the Congress has talked about it never wanted to destroy the farm sector. "None of the laws framed by us said that farmers cannot go to court. None of our laws talked about destroying the mandis, none of them stated that two or three people will be allowed to store food grains." "I am not afraid of anyone, neither of (Prime Minister Narendra) Modi nor of anyone else. I have a clean record and they can't touch me. They can shoot me, but can't touch me. I am a patriot and I protect my country, and I will keep doing it," he said.