As farmers from Punjab and Haryana, seeking repeal of the new farm laws, continued to protest at the gates of Delhi, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah backed the laws Sunday, saying they were for the benefit of farmers.
Late at night, Shah, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar met at BJP president JP Nadda’s residence.
In his Mann Ki Baat address, Modi said demands of farmers, promised at one time or another by every political party, had been met through these laws. He asked the youth, “especially those studying agriculture” to go to villages, and create awareness among farmers about the new laws.
“New dimensions,” he said, were being added to farming and allied industries. “The agriculture reforms in the last few days have opened doors to new possibilities. For years, the demands of farmers, demands which were promised at some time or another by every political party, have been fulfilled. After a lot of discussion, Parliament gave agricultural reforms legal recognition. These reforms have not only removed many restrictions for farmers, but have given them new rights and opportunities,” he said.
| Farmers refuse to move, say will intensify protest
Shah, meanwhile, said he had never said that the farmer protests were political. “Everyone has that right (to protest) in a democracy. But I want to say that all the three farm laws are for the benefit of the farmers. And after a long time, the farmer is going to come out of a constricted system… I have never called the protest by farmers as political. I am not saying that now either,” he told reporters in Hyderabad.
Union Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla, writing to farmer unions staging the protest, assured them that all their issues would be addressed in discussions with a high-level committee of Union Ministers at Vigyan Bhavan on December 3.
He said this discussion can take place earlier if all unions gather the protesting farmers at the designated ground in Burari on the outskirts of Delhi.
Explained | Farmers’ big concern — and what govt could negotiate
“Some unions have demanded the discussions to be held earlier than December 3. The moment you shift to the ground in Burari, the very next day a high-level committee of Union Ministers is ready to meet the representatives of farmer unions at Vigyan Bhavan,” he said in his letter.
Bhalla said because of the protest call given by 30 farmers unions, a large number of farmers from Punjab, Haryana and other parts of the country have gathered near Delhi’s borders, disrupting traffic on two key highways between Punjab and Delhi since November 27.
“According to available information, due to severe cold, farmers are facing a lot of problems. In the wake of the Covid pandemic, there is a threat of infection due to such large gatherings,” he said in the letter, urging farmers to move to Burari.
The Prime Minister, in his Mann Ki Baat address, spoke of the “new rights” that the new laws had granted farmers.
He cited the example of a farmer in Dhule district of Maharashtra whose “full knowledge of the laws has come to his aid”.
| Why protesting farmers are still talking of two 2018 private member Bills
“Jitendra Bhoiji had done farming of maize, and had decided to sell it at the right price to traders. The price for the crop was decided at Rs 3.32 lakh. Jitendra Bhoi also got Rs 25,000 in advance. It was decided that the rest of the money would be given to him in 15 days. But the circumstances turned out later that he did not get the money. Buy the crop from the farmer, don’t pay for months on end. Perhaps people were following the practice followed for many years. In the same way, for four months, Jitendraji’s payment did not happen. In this situation, to his aid came the new farm laws.”
“In this law, it has been decided that in three days, the farmer must be given full payment. And if the payment does not happen, then the farmer can register a complaint. The law has another very big thing. In this law, there is a provision that the area’s SDM has to address the complaint of the farmer within a month. Now when our farmer brother got the strength from this law, then his problem was resolved. He complained, and in a few days, his dues were paid. In other words, full knowledge of the laws became Jitendraji’s strength. Whatever the field, far away from every kind of rumour and misconception, correct information is a big aid for every person,” Modi said.
He cited two other examples — of Mohammad Aslam of Baran in Rajasthan, CEO of a local farm produce organisation who has created a WhatsApp group of farmers on prevailing mandi rates, and Virendra Yadav of Kaithal who has done business of Rs 2 crore in two years by selling farm stubble to agro-energy plants and paper mills by using straw baler machines.
“I request the youth, and especially the lakhs of students studying agriculture, that they should go to nearby villages and bring awareness among farmers about the recently passed farm reforms. By doing this, you will be partners in the big change that is happening in the country,” he said.