Arguing that reforms must be participatory and not arbitrary, senior Congress leader and former Union minister Anand Sharma Monday said reforms in India have always been backed by national consensus and urged the BJP-led government to hold a dialogue with farmers agitating against the new laws and to involve Chief Ministers of states too to resolve the crisis. Senior Congress leader Rahul Gandhi has been suggesting that repeal of the laws was the only way out.
Interestingly, Sharma said “in any agitation sometimes there would be elements who do not represent the mainstream” but argued, “I personally feel that through dialogue everything can be resolved, through negotiations, through persuasion. We have CMs of states, they should be involved. Let’s get over this crisis as a nation together.” Sharma’s remarks came close on the heels of claims by Union Ministers that “ultra-left and Maoist elements” have hijacked the farmers’ agitation.
Sharma was addressing the annual general meeting of FICCI.
Referring to the country’s fight against the Covid-19 pandemic, Sharma asked the government to be more generous in giving out money to all sections affected by the pandemic, especially the poor, and provide more stimulus to help revive the economy but was appreciative of the increase in health care infrastructure.
While India witnessed a major upheaval and contraction in the economy, the country was “not thrown off-balance” like many other countries, he said.
The Congress, on the other hand, has been heavily critical of the government’s handling of the pandemic.
Sharma said India ramped up its capacities, increasing isolation beds from 1.7 lakh in April to almost 14 lakh today, quadrupling ICU beds from 20,000 to 80,000, increasing the tests from 28,000 to 1.5 million and scaling up the number of testing labs. “This is a credit to our people, to our society, to the government. We all got together as a nation, as the people of India to respond to a situation which was beyond us. Equally, I am proud that the country is in a position not only to manufacture but export ventilators, PPE kits, the masks…” he said.
Speaking on reforms, the senior Congress leader recalled that the UPA government too had opened up many sectors and had faced opposition too, especially from those who are the “votaries” of reforms now. But “our reforms have always been backed by national consensus…” he said.
“After 2014 when there was a change in the government, there have been many reforms,” he said, adding that those reforms could take place because of bipartisan support by the Congress after the “government reached out to the opposition, negotiated with us.”
“…Today, what we are seeing is turbulence, protests… The issue is of farm laws. The question we must honestly ask is why? Reforms must be participatory not arbitrary,” he said.
“…Nothing should be rushed through or done without building that consensus. That results in what we are seeing…agitation, conflict and a loss of trust. What worries me today is the binary of ‘we versus you’. This is dangerous… We will support all positive measures of the government. The Opposition is there to flag issues but we are responsible citizens. National interest is as important to us as it is to the government of the day…” he said.
“My appeal to the government..yes…in any agitation sometimes there would be elements who do not represent the mainstream. And here, it is here the farmers’ unions… let’s not forget farmers are the annadatas (food providers). They made India self reliant when it comes to our food requirements…we are very proud of them and it is their sons who defend our frontiers…” he said.
Talking about the economic slowdown, Sharma asked the government to be more generous in giving out money to all sections affected by the pandemic, especially the poor, and provide more stimulus to help revive the economy.
He asked the Government not to be worried about breaching the fiscal deficit ceiling and argued it should go for partial monetisation if need be. He also asked the government to be prepared for a possible investment and banking crisis in the next financial year.
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