NCP president Sharad Pawar on Tuesday said the new farm laws brought by the Centre have no reference about agricultural produce market committees but as Union minister he had maintained that the APMC Act should stay, though with minor changes. He also hit out at the BJP, saying that by highlighting an old letter, which he had written, it was trying to divert attention.
"I have only said there are some provisions of the APMC which require changes. The APMC Act should continue with minor changes and there are no two ways that I had not written that letter. "But there is no reference of APMC in these three (new) laws. This is an attempt to divert attention and this should not be given much importance," he told reporters here. Pawar's NCP is among the parties that has backed Tuesday's 'Bharat Bandh' called by farmers' unions. Government sources on Sunday pointed out that as the agriculture minister in the UPA dispensation he had asked chief ministers to amend the APMC Act in their states to allow the private sector to play an important role in the field.
Sharing the content of some letters he had written to various chief ministers, the sources claimed that the BJP-led NDA government has made the same set of changes in the Agricultural Produce Marketing Committee (APMC) Act as pushed by Pawar when he was the union minister. The government sources said Pawar in a 2010 letter to the then Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit stated that the agriculture sector needs well-functioning markets to drive growth, employment and economic prosperity in rural areas of the country.
"This requires huge investments in marketing infrastructure including cold-chain. And for this, private sector participation is essential, for which an appropriate regulatory and policy environment needs to be in place," his letter said, calling for amending the state APMC Act. In a letter on similar lines to the then Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, Pawar had underlined the need for investments in post-harvest and marketing infrastructure from the farm gate to the consumer and said "private sector needs to play an important role in this regard".
Pawar was the union agriculture, consumer affairs, food and public distribution minister in the then Manmohan Singh-led government. Attacking the opposition, the BJP on Monday said, "Now they are opposing what they had been working to do when in power. This exposes their shameful double standards. This is opposition for the sake of opposition." Pawar said leaders from different political parties will discuss and take a collective stand on the contentious farm laws before meeting President Ram Nath Kovind.
Opposition parties are expected to meet Kovind on Wednesday evening to raise their concerns about the three farm laws. CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury said a five-member delegation comprising him, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, NCP chief Sharad Pawar, a representative of the DMK, CPI general secretary D Raja, will meet the president on behalf of the opposition parties. "The five of us will probably meet before we meet the president and finalise our strategy. We have spoken to all opposition leaders and decided our next course of action. "The delegation has been limited to five because of the COVID-19 situation, although we are trying to see if they allow more leaders to join. In that case we have to rush leaders to Delhi as they are mostly in their respective states," said Yechury.
On Tuesday, Pawar met Defence Rajnath Singh and discussions were believed to be held pertaining to land acquisition for the Purandar airport in Pune district.