The Congress party has been a vocal opponent of the historic farm laws, ever since it came into force. From vowing to not implement the law in the Congress-ruled State of Punjab to lending its support to the Bharat Bandh on Tuesday, the grand old party has been up-in-arms against the current political dispensation.
“I would also like to announce that the Congress party extends its whole-hearted support to the Bharat Bandh on December 8…All our district headquarters and Pradesh headquarters will participate in this bandh. They will hold demonstrations and ensure that the bandh is successful,” Congress spokesperson Pawan Khera had remarked on Sunday. He further alleged, “What we are seeing today is the result of a conspiracy between the government and its corporate friends, wherein the victim would be the farmer, and the farmer knows this.”
In Haryana, former CM Bhupinder Singh Hooda has been vocal and had supported the protests, calling the reforms inadequate.
However, a decade ago, former Haryana Chief Minister and senior Congress leader, Bhupinder Singh Hooda had supported the idea of ‘free and competitive markets’ for farmers. Journalist Marya Shakil had shared a report from 2010 titled, “Report of the Working Group on Agriculture Production” wherein Hooda was seen advocating the same ideas, as espoused by the BJP now.
Bhupinder Singh Hooda had highlighted the ‘monopoly’ of Mandis
“It is surprising but true that farmers have hardly any choice in marketing their produce,” the report stated. It emphasised that farmers are dependent on ‘regulated mandis’ which act as ‘monopoly institutions’ for the sale of the produce. “In the absence of credit and storage facilities, farmers are forced to go for distress sale of their produce. Thus a suitable change in this system is required,” Bhupinder Singh Hooda had emphasised.
Hooda emphasised on private competition
He pointed out that since Mandis was regulated by the government, private investment for storage and transportation of crops was scarce. “In order to give choice to farmers, and developing a more efficient supply chain, it is necessary to bring in private sector investments for developing marketing infrastructure including better handling of agriculture produce,” the report noted.
In the 2010 report, Hooda informed that the Model Agricultural marketing law of 2003, to be adopted by the states, provided for the establishment of private markets and farmer-consumer marketing, aiding in contract farming, standardisation, grading of produce and e-farming promotion.”States need to adopt these reforms, operationalise them and in fact go beyond the measures proposed in the Model Law to provide free and competitive markets to farmers,” the report advocated.
Sharad Pawar had shared similar views on farm reforms
While the opposition has been actively scaremongering the public about corporatisation and takeover of farming by private players, in light of the new farm laws, NCP supremo Sharad Pawar had once been a vocal supporter of introducing private competition in the agriculture sector.
In an old interview with NDTV, the NCP supremo, who was the then agriculture Minister, was seen explaining how he believed that encouraging private players in the Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC) can benefit farmers. He had conceded that until private players are encouraged to work in the APMC sector, the government will not provide any financial support to the states.
Sharad Pawar had also written two letters, one in 2010 and another in 2011, to Delhi CM Sheila Dixit and Madhya Pradesh CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan highlighting how changes in APMC could benefit farmers.