Backing the Prime Minister’s message to farmers on the new farm laws, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh struck a conciliatory tone Friday when he asked farmers to “experiment” with the new laws for “one-two years” before seeking any change, while Home Minister Amit Shah said the government had an “open mind” on any clause that farmers felt was not in their interest.
Singh said he spoke to Prime Minister Narendra Modi two days ago, and he had emphasised the need to continue talks with farmers. He said it was “painful” to see farmers protesting.
Addressing a rally in Dwarka, Singh said there was marked improvement in MSP-based procurement under the NDA as against the UPA tenure.
“But even then, we are being doubted. Misconceptions are being raised. I want to tell my brothers and sisters, sitting on dharna for a long time, that it causes us pain. They may be sitting on dharna, but they are farmers. They have been born from a farmer mother’s womb. In our minds, we have a lot of respect for them. As the son of a farmer, I want to say, we will not do anything that harms the rights of farmers,” he said.
“Ek baar iss Act ko laagu toh hone dijiye. Saal-do saal, aap experiment karke toh dekhiye iss Act ke anusar. Yadi aapko lage ki yeh kisanon ke liye labhkaari Act nahin hai, toh mein daave ke saath keh sakta hoon, jaisa mein Pradhan Mantriji ki niyat ko jaanta hoon, behenon bhaiyon, ismei jo bhi sanshodhan avashyak hoga, saara sanshodhan karne ke liye hum poori tarah se taiyyar rahenge,” he said.
(“Let this Act be implemented once. For one-two years, experiment according to this Act and see. If you think this is not a profitable Act for farmers, I can say with certainty, knowing the Prime Minister’s intentions, whatever amendments are necessary, we will be ready to do them all.”)
In the multiple rounds of talks so far, the government, he said, has been ready to make any amendment that the farmers want. He urged farmers to come to the table for more talks with the government, and said they can bring agriculture experts if they so wish.
“It was first said that the farmer will be destroyed, so some amendments should be made. Seven rounds of talks have happened. Whatever the farmers said, those amendments too our government is ready to make. What we too say is that the solution to the problem can be through talks… I was talking to the Prime Minister two days ago, and he said that at no point should dialogue be stopped with farmers. The sequence of talks should continue with our farmer brothers,” he said.
Shah attacked the Opposition for spreading “misconceptions” on the farm laws. He said the NDA government had done more for farmers during its tenure.
“Rahul Gandhi, who talks of farmer welfare, when it was your government… when you were Agriculture Minister, Sharad Pawar, in 2013-14, how much was the budget for farmers? There was a Congress government of Sonia-Manmohan, then the farmer budget was 21,900 crore. Only 21,900 crore. In the last budget, Modiji took it from 21,900 crore to 134,399 crore. And they are asking for our account? Ulta chor kotwal ko daante?” Shah said.
He said “MSP was there, is there and will be there forever”, and that the UPA had no right to talk about it.
“For years, farmers wanted that the MSP level should be one-and-a-half times the expenditure on crop. Please tell me if that was a demand or not? For 70 years, nobody fulfilled this demand. Narendra Modi, between 2014 and 2019, made the MSP one-and-a-half times the cost of the crop, and gave the farmers big relief.”
Slamming the Opposition for creating “commotion” on the farm laws, he assured farmers that these laws were there for their benefit. “There will be no harm to farmers at all. Neither will MSP end, nor can anyone take away your land. I want to tell farmer brothers, till the time Narendra Modi is Prime Minister, your land cannot be stolen by any corporate. This is a promise of the BJP to you,” he said.
Shah said multiple committees had recommended these farm reforms including “the 2001 Shankarlal Guru Committee, then Montek Singh Ahluwalia who was very close to Manmohan Singh… Sharad Joshi Taskforce.. it is in the Swaminathan Commission report and when a committee was formed during Sharad Pawar’s time, in this too, this was forwarded.”
“In Maharashtra, Sharad Pawar has created private markets for a long time. And now, he has started being a cry-baby, because people of this country have rejected them, and installed Narendra Modi. This commotion has been created, in the name of farmers, in some places,” he said.
“Even then, if farmer unions think, forget about the Opposition because they have political interests, but if farmer unions think that one clause does not benefit farmers, then the government is prepared to talk to them with an open mind. You please come, come with the clauses of the laws, come and debate, and if there is any clause that is against farmers, then Narendra Modi is open to think about it with an open mind,” Shah said.
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