As the government prepares to table three contentious farm bills in the Rajya Sabha, former finance minister and senior Congress leader P Chidambaram Saturday accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP spokespersons for ‘deliberately and maliciously’ distorting the Congress Manifesto over the issue.
Defending the Congress’s promise of repealing the APMC Act, Chidambaram said in a statement, “The Prime Minister and the BJP spokespersons have deliberately and maliciously distorted the Congress Manifesto. We promised to promote Farmers Producer Companies/Organisations to enable farmers to access inputs, technology and markets; and to establish farmers’ markets with adequate infrastructure and support in large villages and small towns to enable the farmer to bring his/her produce and freely market the same.”
Chidambaram’s statement came just a day ahead the government listed the three farm bills – The Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020 and The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, 2020 – for consideration and passing in the Upper House on Sunday. These bills have already been passed by the Lok Sabha. Earlier this week, the government had introduced three farm bills to replace the ordinances promulgated on June 5 this year.
The senior Congress leader urged the opposition parties to “join hands to oppose the Bills”. “The Congress and other Opposition parties must join hands to oppose the Bills in every forum and ensure that they do not become law in the present form,” he said.
“Every party has to take a stand – is it with the farmers or is it with the BJP threatening the livelihood of farmers?” Chidambaram asked.
Farmers in Haryana and Punjab are protesting against the bills as they fear that the new legislation will lead to an end of the existing system of assured procurement at minimum support price (MSP) for the public distribution system (PDS).
Describing MSP, Public Procurement and PDS as the “three pillars” of the country’s food security, Chidambaram said, “The Bills undermine the three pillars of our food security system.”
Slamming the ruling party, the senior Congress leader said, “The BJP is caught in a web of its own creation. For decades, it was — and it still is — a party dominated by traders and merchants. An economy that was afflicted by shortages of goods and services was exploited by them. That situation began to change with the Green Revolution (pioneered by Indira Gandhi) and liberalisation (ushered in by P V Narasimha Rao and Dr Manmohan Singh).”
“Today, our farmers produce huge surpluses in many agricultural produce — notably wheat and rice. On the strength of our farmers, successive Congress governments built, brick by brick, a food security system, that culminated in the National Food Security Act, 2013,” he added.
“Farmers need multiple accessible markets and choice. The Congress’ proposals would have given them that. Once that is accomplished, the Congress Manifesto promise on repealing the APMC Act and making trade in agricultural produce free would be a natural sequel in course of time,” he said.
Highlighting the shortcomings in the farm bills introduced by the NDA government, he said, “While our promise is clear, the Modi government has surrendered to the corporates and traders.”
While the BJP, with 86 seats, is the largest party in the 245-member Rajya Sabha, the ruling alliance falls short of the majority. Congress (40 seats) and All India Trinamool Congress (13 seats) are the second and third largest parties in the Rajya Sabha respectively.
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