Farm bills: Akali Dal has ‘state compulsions’, Congress doing politics, says Ravi Shankar Prasad

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September 23, 2020 12:43 PM

The opposition parties have been protesting against the bills saying it would put the farmers at the mercy of big private buyers who are unlikely to pay the right price for their produce, that's why the minimum support price (MSP) is important.

Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad

Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad has defended the passage of the farm bills and accused the opposition parties including Congress of doing politics. He said the Congress in its 2019 manifesto had promised to rationalise the Mandi (APMC) Act, and create scope for farmers to sell their produce anywhere. “The same is said in its Punjab manifesto. Contract farming was launched by its Haryana government in 2007. We did the same thing…the opposition to the Bill is for the sake of politics,” the minister said while speaking to The Indian Express.

The opposition parties have been protesting against the bills saying it would put the farmers at the mercy of big private buyers who are unlikely to pay the right price for their produce, that’s why the minimum support price (MSP) is important. They also say that farmers would not be in position to fight big corporates in case of any dispute in contract farming.

To this apprehension, the minister said that the Centre and as well as Prime Minister Narendra Modi have made it clear that MSP would not be affected by these bills. “Regarding MSP, we have made it very clear, it is already announced, and we are the first government to give 50% raise as recommended by the Swaminathan Committee,” Prasad told IE.

When asked why the Centre did not mention MSP in the Act, the minister said that it was an administrative decision. He further said that the “price commission recommends it” and it is part of the commitment. “Look at our record of the past six-seven years. We are the first party that said the Swaminathan Commission recommendation would be followed,” he said.

On fears of private procurement at lower prices, Prasad said that no farmer will sell their produce at less than MSP. He said that the farmers, for so many years, sell only if they get more than the MSP. Quite the contrary, he suggested that if MSP was made part of the bill then it could hurt the farmers. “If a farmer is getting more than the MSP, do you want to shackle it?” Prasad said. He rejected all the protests, saying they were all being sponsored by those who will be hit, the Congress and the Opposition. “But our commitment to farmers remains, and once people realise the reality, the Opposition will be exposed,” the union minister said.

On the question of why BJP couldn’t convince Akali Dal, its ally in Centre, Prasad said they (SAD) have their own state compulsions. He said that his party had talked to the Parivar and distinguished colleagues. “There may be some compulsions in Punjab politics,” he said. Prasad also justified the passage of the bills in Rajya Sabha, saying that four hours of debate had happened on the Bills. He said that there was no question of sending the bills to standing committees because it was the delay tactics by the Opposition.

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