Claiming that the new farm laws were needed to correct the “mistakes” committed by then Congress government while joining the World Trade Organisation (WTO), Gujarat Agriculture Minister Ranchhod Faldu on Thursday said they were necessary to help farmers survive in the world market and by introducing them, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had done an act of “dharma”.
Addressing a Kisan Sammelan here, Faldu said that the then Congress government led by Narsimha Rao hastily joined the WTO and, therefore, the country couldn’t secure patents for a number of species whereas China took its time and managed to persuade the WTO to agree to terms favourable to that country.
“Today, China controls the international trade arena… people who were in power in India that time committed serious mistakes that pushed future generations in darkness… Agricultural produce from 159 WTO member countries are being dumped in India and we are unable to do anything about it as our hands are tied by the treaty. Landed cost of some imported commodities are lower than production cost of them for our farmers,” Faldu said.
“In such an environment, an able man like Modi is trying to find ways out. On one hand, he has to face WTO and on the other, he has to ensure that farmers’ enthusiasm remains intact. What can be done in such circumstances? One needs to reform the system,” he added.
When asked by The Indian Express if he still saw the WTO arrangements disadvantageous to Indian agricultural sector when the country has become net exporter, the minister said: “Indian farmers still have to compete with their counterparts in 159 countries and have to produce high-quality crops… patents of trees like neem should have been ours.”
The sammelan in Savarkundla was one among 10 organised by the ruling BJP in the state on Thursday to create awareness about the recent laws enacted by the central government reforming primary trade of agricultural commodities and contract farming.
“Modi takes decisions after deep thinking and he is not the man known for reconsidering them. Reforms are needed if we want farmers and their future generations to survive in the world and help them get access to world market. Infusing fresh elements is absolutely necessary,” Faldu said.
Farmers from Punjab and Haryana have been protesting on the borders of Delhi, demanding repeal of new farm laws. “Farmers don’t have any objections… Protests are coming from those who are feeling that the ground benath their feet is shaking. Farmers’ sons are wriggling out of the trap of capitalists of Punjab and some parts of Haryana who lend them money at 12 to 15 per cent interest. Modi is actually doing work of dharma,” he said.
The Minister said by enacting the farm laws, Modi had not committed any sin and asked vachal (articulate) class to speak out. “What are the amendments in the APMC Act? They are nothing which can make Modi or any BJP worker hang his head in shame. No such sin has been committed,” he said.
“Since the time our governments came to power in the state and Centre, we are helping farmers of Gujarat with an average Rs 30,000 crore annually towards subsidy and other assistance… Our governments, by reforming laws, are trying to meet future needs of farmers…,” Faldu added.
Explaining that all that the recent acts do is giving traders freedom to procure from farmers directly without paying any marketing cess or obtaining a licence, Faldu said with increase in production, infusion of fresh “elements” in trading community was the need of the hour.
“There are approximately 80,000 traders involved in primary trade of agricultural commodities in the state… The figure was the same 20 years ago as well. Should we infuse new elements into it or not? Gross domestic production of agriculture was Rs14,000 crore in 2001 but it shot up to Rs 1.73 lakh crore last year… a jump of around 22 to 23 per cent. Production of foodgrain and oilseeds has also increased 2.5 times. Systems warrant reforms when production goes up…,” the BJP leader reasoned.
Faldu credited Modi for the jump in agriculture produce in the state, starting with launch of Krushi Mahotsav in 2005 and amendments in Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC) Act in 2007. “After Gujarat passed the model APMC Act in 2007, as many as 17 states of the country came here to study it,” said the minister.
He added that he saw no harm in more players entering the primary trade.
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