Senior Congress leader and former union minister Anand Sharma on Monday said reforms need to be backed by national consensus and urged the government to involve chief ministers of states to resolve the current farmers' agitation against the new agricultural laws.
Even in the US, more than 95% of the farms are family farms, and corporate farming has not entered the world’s most liberal capitalistic country.
Senior Congress leader and former union minister Anand Sharma on Monday said reforms need to be backed by national consensus and urged the government to involve chief ministers of states to resolve the current farmers’ agitation against the new agricultural laws. Speaking at the annual FICCI AGM, which was held virtually, he called upon the government to be more generous in giving out money to all sections affected by the coronavirus pandemic, especially the poor, and provide more stimulus to help revive the economy. He said the country has lost 10 per cent of the GDP and will take another year to come back to 2019-20 levels.
“Today what we are seeing is turbulence and protests on the farm laws. Reforms must be participatory, not arbitrary. There must be consultations. Nothing should be rushed through or done without building a consensus. That results in what we are seeing – agitation, conflict and the loss of trust,” he said. “I personally feel that through dialogue, negotiations and persuasion, everything can be resolved. We have chief ministers of states and they must be involved and let’s get over this crisis too, together as a nation,” the former union minister said.
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 MSP and do away with the mandi system, leaving them at the “mercy” of big corporates. The Congress leader said he is a votary of reforms but they have always been backed by national consensus, that gives predictability and confidence to partner countries and investors.
“What worries me today is the binary of ‘we versus you’. This is dangerous and it should not happen in our country. We all Indians are patriots,” he said. Sharma said in a democracy the opposition is needed, noting that the chariot of democracy must have the government as well as a robust, effective and responsible opposition. He appealed to the government to resolve farm issues through dialogue, not forgetting that farmers are the ‘annadatas’ that made India self reliant in food and that their sons defend the country’s frontiers.
The deputy leader of Congress in the Rajya Sabha cited the example of the US and said the Supreme Court there has taken charge and the acrimony and bitterness of the elections is over. He said the judiciary in India is independent and the Supreme Court has a constitutional duty and mandate to uphold the Constitution. “There are concerns when there are delays on important constitutional matters and the bucket is kicked down the road. As the old saying, justice delayed is justice denied. When justice is to be done and when interventions are required, my urge to you would be that it is the expectation of you lords that you should do that. We all have faith in you and that faith must be intact,” he said.
There are several constitutional issues currently pending before the Supreme Court. Talking about the economy, Sharma said the country and the world has been confronted with an extraordinary crisis due to the pandemic which has created enormous destruction. Noting that India was not thrown off-balance like many other countries, he said “we have witnessed major upheavals in our economy and there was a contraction”. Sharma said there have been huge job losses, including 10 million in the organised sector and 40 million in the unorganised sector.
He said “it is debatable whether the recovery is V-shaped or K-shaped”, as deposit of salaries below Rs 25,000 in banks has gone down by 20 per cent and is a cause of worry, he said. “We need to be more generous. We need not look at this year, which is exceptional, for fiscal deficit and FRBM numbers and we have to breach the limits, even if we have to go towards partial monetisation to give more stimulus to the industry including wage support and guarantees. “As of now, it appears the North Block is clueless about this crisis which we may face in the next financial year,”he said. “Perhaps there is room to do more and that is why I urge the prime minister and the government to do so,” he said while lamenting that the stimulus was far less than the 10 per cent of the GDP, as claimed.