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Opinion

Prime Minister Modi seeks to quell concerns over farm laws

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday sought to allay concerns about recently enacted farm laws that he said had opened up new opportunities for farmers, in the context of protests by farmers in Punjab and Haryana who have marched into the capital.

“New dimensions are being added to agriculture and its related activities in India. The agricultural reforms of the last few days have also opened new doors of possibilities for our farmers, ”Modi said on his monthly radio broadcast. Mann Ki Baat.

Decades of farmers’ demands that political parties had repeatedly promised would be honored are now being honored with Parliament having passed all three farm laws after rigorous brainstorming, Modi said.

“These reforms have not only broken the chains of farmers, but have also given them new rights and opportunities. These rights began to mitigate the problems that farmers faced in a short period of time, ”he said.

Farmers want the Modi government to repeal the three contentious laws passed by Parliament in September. The laws basically change the way India’s farmers do business by creating free markets, as opposed to a decades-old network of government-controlled agricultural markets.

Together, the laws allow companies to freely trade agricultural products outside of the so-called “mandi system” controlled by the government, they allow private traders to store large quantities of basic products for future sales, which previously could only be done by agents approved by the government. government, and establish new rules for contract farming.

Farmers say the reforms would make them vulnerable to exploitation by large corporations, erode their bargaining power, and weaken the government’s procurement system, whereby the government buys commodities, such as wheat and rice, at guaranteed prices. .

The Prime Minister cited the example of a farmer from Maharashtra, Jitendra Bhoiji, who used the new law to recover money owed to him. After failing to obtain the amount owed to him even four months after selling his product, Bhoji invoked a provision that it was mandatory to pay a farmer within three days of purchase.

“If the payment is not made, the farmer can file a complaint. According to the law, there is a provision that establishes that the SDM subdivisional magistrate of the area must attend the farmer’s complaint within a month, “said the prime minister.

The Prime Minister also cited the example of Mohammad Aslam in Baran of Rajasthan, who is raising awareness among farmers by updating them on daily rates at local farmers markets. Aslam is the executive director of a federation of agricultural producers. A third example cited by the Prime Minister was that of Virendra Yadav, who returned from Australia to the Kaithal of Haryana and found a solution for the burning of agricultural stubble.

Instead of burning stubble, which damages air quality, Yadav has been selling stubble to paper mills and agroenergy plants and has made a profit in two years.

With thousands of farmers continuing their protest against the Center’s new laws, Union Interior Minister Amit Shah said in Hyderabad on Sunday that they were intended for the well-being of farmers and called their agitation apolitical. He told reporters: “The new agricultural laws are aimed at the well-being of farmers. After a long time, the farmer will come out of a blocked system. Whoever wants to oppose politically, do so. I have never said that the farmers’ protest is political and I would never say (that it is political) ”.

Meanwhile, the Congress party continued to attack the government for agricultural laws. Congress Secretary General Randeep Surjewala said on Sunday the new laws were “anti-peasant” and his endorsement by the prime minister raises questions about the outcome of upcoming talks between the government and peasant leaders.

“In this cold weather, the agriculture minister is making farmers wait until December 3 to talk to them … Prime Minister Modi in his Mann ki Baat said that all three laws are suitable for farmers, so, What is the meaning of the talks, “Surjewala said.

The congressional leader also demanded an apology from the Bharatiya Janata Party for equating farmers with terrorists.

“Haryana’s chief minister ML Khattar called them atanki (terrorists), TI cell chief Amit Malviya has called them Khalistani. The Modi government and the Haryana government have brought more than 12,000 cases against farmers who had opted for a Gandhian protest, ”said Surjewala.

He argued that the government wanted to benefit large companies and not small farmers. Surjewala said Congress wanted all three laws suspended and the cases brought against farmers dropped. The prime minister should hold talks with representatives of protesting farmers in Delhi, he said.

“The law says that farmers can move to other states to sell their products. When they cannot sell their products adequately in their own area, how will this benefit them? And with contract farming, the government has initiated another type of Zamindari law. The farmers, under contract of agriculture, will not be able to fight against the corporate houses, which will become their owners, ”said Surjewala.

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