'Vested Interests' Spreading Baseless Rumours on Farm Bills, Says Jitendra Singh
Union Minister Jitendra Singh
Farmers' organisations and opposition parties allege that the law is framed to suit "big corporates who seek to dominate the Indian food and agriculture business", and will weaken the negotiating power of farmers.
- Last Updated: September 24, 2020, 20:50 IST
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Union Minister Jitendra Singh on Thursday said certain "vested interests" are spreading baseless rumours about farm bills passed by Parliament to provoke farmers for petty political gains, according to an official statement. He said the bills will lead to the democratisation of the farming sector and give farmers the choice to earn bigger profits by selling their produce to big companies, the statement issued by the Ministry of Personnel stated.
Three agricultural reform bills 'The Farmers' Produce Trade And Commerce (Promotion And Facilitation) Bill', 'The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill', and 'The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill' were passed by Rajya Sabha on Sunday amid protests by farmers and opposition parties. They were earlier cleared by Lok Sabha.
Farmers' organisations and opposition parties allege that the law is framed to suit "big corporates who seek to dominate the Indian food and agriculture business", and will weaken the negotiating power of farmers. They also feel that big private companies, exporters, wholesalers, and processors may get an edge.
In an interview to public broadcaster Doordarshan, Singh said the "ridiculous irony" is that baseless rumours are being spread about certain provisions that do not exist at all in the bills brought in Parliament by the Modi government. For example, he said, a campaign has been unleashed to misguide the farmers into believing that the minimum support price (MSP) has been stopped, whereas there is no reference to it in the bills.
This obviously indicates that it will continue as before, said the minister of state for personnel. Singh said those who are opposing the bills and provoking the farmers are trying in vain to make it an issue due to electoral considerations.
The minister said the farm bills brought by the government will lead to the democratisation of the farming sector by giving the farmer the freedom and the choice to sell his crop to anyone, anywhere and earn more profits by joining the big companies. At the same time, the market system will continue as before and the Agricultural and Food Policy Center (AFPC) will also remain in place, he added.
Similarly, Singh said, the farmers are being provoked by being told that they will face exploitation at the hands of big companies in the name of the contract. Quite contrary to this, the bills have sufficient provisions to protect the farmer from any exploitation, he said.
The minister said the contract and the agreement will guarantee the farmer gets a fixed price and can withdraw at any point without any penalty. Not only this, the bills clearly prohibit selling, leasing or mortgaging a farmer's land because the agreement is regarding the crops and not the land, he added. "It is, therefore, a wrong interpretation that big businessmen will grab the land of the farmers and turn them into bonded labourers," Singh said.
The farm bills also provide sufficient safeguards for the sale of crops in the open market, he said. The minister said if a farmer chooses to sell his crop in the open market anywhere in the country, the buyers will be bound to make the entire payment on the same day or within three working days if procedural time is required.
"In case of default, there are also provisions of penalty on the purchaser," he said. The three farm bills have been sent to President Ram Nath Kovind for his assent.
On Wednesday, 18 opposition parties urged Kovind not to sign the contentious bills and alleged that they were passed "unconstitutionally" in "complete disregard" of parliamentary norms. Among the parties opposing the bills are –Congress, CPI-M, CPI, TMC, NCP, Samajwadi Party, Shiv Sena, RJD, DMK, TRS, AAP, IUML, Kerala Congress (M) and Loktantrik Janata Dal.