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Thursday, October 29, 2020

‘Hurting the farmers? How? Ask us one question we can’t answer’: Nirmala Sitharaman

According to Sitharaman, all consultations were majorly done – talking to people, taking their inputs, and then bringing it to Cabinet – by the time she announced these agri reforms as part of the AtmaNirbhar package on May 15.

By: ENS Economic Bureau | New Delhi | Updated: September 28, 2020 8:15:25 am
Nirmala Sitharaman, Nirmala Sitharaman interview, Nirmala Sitharaman Indian Express interview, Nirmala Sitharaman on farm bills, India news, Indian ExpressUnion Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman speaks in Lok Sabha during the ongoing Monsoon Session of Parliament. (Photo: Screengrab @ LSTV via PTI Photo)

POINTING OUT THAT her Cabinet colleague Narendra Tomar, Minister of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare, had wide-ranging consultation with all stakeholders including the Opposition before introducing the three reformist farm Bills in Parliament, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said the Congress and other political parties were doing a “disservice”, particularly after having professed the same reforms in their own manifestos.

In an interview to The Indian Express, she said, “I am not surprised, I am disappointed… because the extent to which consultations had happened… not just with the stakeholders… but MPs were asked for their views, farmers were asked for their views… Tomarji went through the whole rigour.”

Column| The farmer’s freedom to sell

According to Sitharaman, all consultations were majorly done – talking to people, taking their inputs, and then bringing it to Cabinet – by the time she announced these agri reforms as part of the AtmaNirbhar package on May 15. The three ordinances were promulgated within three weeks on June 5. Even then, they just wondered, “Will Modi (Prime Minister Narendra Modi) be able to pull it off?” she said.

“When the protests are going on – look also at the places where the protests are being held – what exactly are you protesting for? Which part of the Act is hurting you? Hurting the farmers, how pray? I challenge these people… ask us that one question, where we won’t be able to answer you…,” Sitharaman said, pointing out that the law would only provide a choice to farmers to sell their produce, beyond the mandis run by the Agriculture Produce Market Committee (APMC).

To a question on the hurry to pass these laws and why couldn’t the government instead re-promulgate the Ordinance and refer the Bills to a Select Committee as demanded by the Opposition, the Finance Minister said, “There is no end to the debate… It is not in the merit of the matter.”

Explained Ideas| The farm bills as a step in the right direction

Sitharaman said when asked about how the proposed laws would hurt farmers, the Congress shifted the goalpost. “They started saying that continuation of the Minimum Support Price and government procurement should be hardwired by putting it in the Act… Now, you put APMC dismantling in your manifesto, you didn’t say then that MSP will be hardwired… Why now?” she said.

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