Government sources on Monday said reforms measures incorporated in three new farm sector legislations were recommended by a Bhupinder Singh Hooda-led committee in 2010 when the Congress was in power. The agitating farmers, seeking repeal of the farm laws, have given the call for a 'Bharat Bandh' on Tuesday and several opposition parties, including the Congress and the NCP, have extended their support to it.
With the opposition rallying around the farmers' protest against the Narendra Modi government's agri reforms, senior BJP leader and Union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad on Monday accused its rivals of "shameful double standards" as it claimed that parties like the Congress and the NCP had once supported what are now key provisions of the new laws.
Government sources said that in its report submitted in December 2010, the committee led by then Haryana Chief Minister Hooda had said, "The market for agricultural produce must be immediately freed of all sorts of restrictions on movement, trading, stocking, finance, exports, etc. No monopoly, including that of APMC or corporate licenses, should be allowed to restrict the market." The committee had also said that the concept of farmers' markets, where farmers can freely sell to the consumers directly must be promoted, sources claimed.
"The use of the Essential Commodities Act should be made only in times of emergency and it must be decided in consultation with state governments," the panel had said.
According to sources, the committee had said on a model agricultural marketing law circulated in 2003 for adoption by the states that "the model act provides for alternative marketing channels to the farmers…. States need to adopt these reforms, operationalise them and in fact go beyond the measures proposed in the model law to provide a free and competitive market to farmers."
In fact in 2013, another working group on agriculture production headed by Hooda was set up and it had chief ministers of Punjab, West Bengal and Bihar, they added. The reforms recommended by the Hooda-headed committee during the Congress tenure are now part of the three farm laws that the party is opposing now. The farmers are protesting against the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020; Farmers Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020; and The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act 2020.
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. However, the protesting farmers have expressed apprehension that the new laws would pave the way for eliminating the safety cushion of Minimum Support Price and do away with the mandis, leaving them at the mercy of big corporates.