The NCP supremo, Sharad Pawar, who had once advocated major reforms in agricultural laws, is again opposing the farm bills on the occasion of “National Farmers Day” and announced that he would meet the President Ram Nath Kovind in this regard soon.
Undeterred by the on-going cold wave, farmers, particularly from Punjab and Haryana are protesting against the Central government’s new farm laws. While the agitators have put their demands in front of the government, some politicians, particularly leaders from Congress and the NCP boss have taken this opportunity for political benefits.
It may be recalled that Pawar himself advocated huge changes in agricultural laws during his tenure as the union Minister for Agriculture. In this regard, he also wrote letters in 2005, 2007, 2010 and 2011 to several chief ministers and state agriculture ministers. In his letter to Shelia Dixit in 2010, Pawar pointed out that ‘well- functioning markets’ are essential to improve growth, employment and economic development in rural areas in the agricultural sector. The NCP chief further pointed out that this requires huge investment in market infrastructure as well as the participation of the private sector. Pawar then advocated the changes in the APMC act which are one of the reasons behind such move.
Moreover, in his 2011 letter to then Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, Sharad Pawar pointed out the importance of private sector’s participation in the Mandis for agricultural reforms while advocating changes in the APMC Act. He further added that this move will ‘encourage private sector investment in marketing infrastructure and providing alternate competing marketing channels’ which will be beneficial for the farmers, consumers as well as the traders. “I am sure that this will mean reduced intermediation costs and post-harvest losses as well as the enhanced supply of the produce and greater farmer share in consumers’ price,” the letter said.
The contents of the letter were revealed that the BJP-led NDA government has made the same set of changes in the Agricultural Produce Marketing Committee (APMC) Act as pushed by Pawar when he was part of the Manmohan Singh-led UPA dispensation. Pawar served as the union agriculture, consumer affairs, food and public distribution minister in the Manmohan Singh government from 2004 to 2014.
However, taking a U-turn, the NCP supremo on Wednesday said it is the responsibility of those in power to aptly honour farmers, but unfortunately cultivators are now forced to stage protest for their rights. This has clearly indicated that the NCP chief is also playing “dirty politics” along with other opposition leaders and just trying to gain political mileage out of it.
On the occasion of the National Farmers’ Day, the former Union Agriculture minister in a post on Twitter wished for justice to the farmers. Thousands of cultivators have been protesting at the border points of Delhi since November 26 against the Centre’s three new farm laws. “It is the responsibility of those in power to aptly honour farmer who forms an important part of economy. But unfortunately the farmer of the country is now forced to stage protest for his rights and demands,” Pawar said while showing his double-standard of politics and added, “Wishing for justice to the farmer on the occasion of the National Farmers’ Day.”
However, Pawar’s hypocrisy was exposed as his letters had asked chief ministers to amend the APMC Act in their states to allow the private sector to play an important role in the agriculture sector. And hence he has no moral right to talk against the bills.
Farmers, particularly from Punjab and Haryana protesting at the Delhi border are demanding a repeal of the new agriculture laws. Enacted in September, the three farm laws have been projected by the central government as major reforms in the agriculture sector that will remove the middlemen and allow farmers to sell anywhere in the country. However, the protesting farmers have expressed apprehension that the new laws would pave the way for eliminating the safety cushion of Minimum Support Price (MSP) and do away with the mandi system, leaving them at the mercy of big corporate.
The Narendra Modi government has repeatedly asserted that the MSP and mandi systems will stay and has accused the opposition of misleading the farmers. Moreover, senior ministers, including union home minister, Amit Shah and union agriculture minister Narendra Singh Tomar held series of meeting with farmers and assured them about the MSP. In view of such situation, at least Pawar should come out, instead of opposing it and convince the farmers that such acts were much-needed for the welfare of farmers in the country.
** M Charulata