A two-time Chief Minister and three-time MP, Congress leader Bhupinder Singh Hooda,73, is currently the Leader of Opposition in Haryana. With the stage set for the Baroda bypoll, Hooda spoke to The Sunday Express on a range of issues, including the farmers’ agitation against the controversial farm laws. Excerpts:
BJP blames you for current farmers agitation in Haryana? What do you say?
Actually, the agitation is being run by farmers and Congress is supporting them. Being in the opposition, it’s our duty to support the people who are fighting for their rights. Likewise, the farmers are also fighting for the right cause because the three farm laws will ruin the farmers, arhtiyas (commission agents at mandis) and labourers. The laws will also affect those who get food under the Public Distribution Supply (PDS) system. These laws will benefit only those who have deep pockets, like aggregators and exporters.
What’s your demand now?
The government should bring a fourth law to make a provision that if anybody purchases crops at less than the MSP, he would be punished. So that no distress-sale takes place. I had done that in 2007 when the rules on contract farming were introduced during our government in Haryana. These rules say the agreed contract rate shall not be less than of the MSP of the preceding year. So, the interests of the farmers were protected. This is what we want today. They should put this condition in the law.
Take the example of wheat. Its MSP was increased by about 15 per cent every year. But the BJP government has (increased) the MSP hardly by 3-5 per cent whereas the cost of production is increasing. In our time, diesel was cheapest because of the low VAT. There was no tax on fertilisers and agriculture inputs. So, the cost of production was low during our regime in comparison to today.
Opinion| Farm laws: Claims and reality
What do you say about the Pipli episode?
In democracy, every section of society has the right to fight for their rights but farmers were lathicharged in Pipli (Kurukshetra). There were contradictions in the government… A minister says there was no lathicharge but the CM says it was in self-defence. What’s the truth?
BJP says Congress is opposing those farm provisions which it proposed earlier. Comment?
Congress never proposed these things. I was chairman of the Working Group on Agriculture Production during the UPA government, which recommended that MSP should be effectively ensured and procurement arrangements must be put in place by all states in respect of all commodities related to food security… We had recommended MSP for pulses, oil seeds, vegetables should also be fixed by the Government of India. But they (BJP) have brought potatoes and onions out from the list of essential commodities and now these can be hoarded, while the poor need potatoes and onion. Farmers’ produce will be purchased at low cost but it will become costly when the demand will increase.
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