A senior Congress leader has confirmed what was being suspected for some time now, that most who are protesting the three new farm laws have not read the laws, and are not aware of the provisions of the laws. Leader of the Congress party in Lok Sabha Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury accused the govt of not addressing the issue of middleman in agriculture, when the fact is that new laws do exactly the same.
Reacting to the PM Modi launching the distribution of funds under PM Kisan scheme to farmers across the country, AR Chowdhury made some bizarre comments. He said that while the government claims Rs 18,000 crore directly transferred to farmers, but middlemen still exist and the entire amount does reach the farmers.
This is a completely baseless argument, because the PM Kisan scheme is implemented through Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT), which does not involve any middlemen or intermediary. The Union Government of India makes the payment directly to the farmers by transferring the amount to their bank accounts. Once a farmer is registered in the system under the scheme, no further action is needed for getting the payment, the instalments are paid directly through DBT. Hence the claim that there are middlemen and farmers don’t reach the entire amount is completely false. Farmers have received instalments of Rs 2000.00 in full, without having to pay any bribe or commission.
It is notable that while farmers across the country are receiving the benefit under the scheme, farmers in West Bengal are deprived of it. This is because, the Mamata Banerjee government has refused to allow farmers of the state to receive the fund directly from the central government, and insisting that the fund should be transferred to the state government. TMC is an ally of Congress party against the BJP, and the same TMC is wanting a system that will enable middlemen in the scheme.
There were huge irregularities in the distribution of compensation to the victims of the cyclone Amphan, and the same is bound to happen if the PM Kisan scheme money is also distributed through the state govt machinery, a state famous for ‘cut money’. In the Amphan compensation distribution, several TMC Panchayat secretaries were suspended for misuse of money, and several TMC members had even admitted to receiving compensation without suffering any damage from the cyclone.
Therefore, it is ironical that while the Congress party is supporting a party that does not want direct transfer of money to farmers, it is talking about middlemen.
But that is not enough, AR Chowdhury’s comments point towards even bigger hypocrisy of the party, because it is opposing a law that specifically seeks to remove middlemen from agriculture. The Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act allows the farmers to sell their produce wherever they want, as opposed to the current system under which they can only sale to APMC markets. These markets are run by middlemen, and farmers have to pay hefty commission to those agents to sell their produce.
The new law gives the farmers the option of selling directly to buyers without having to going through middlemen, and the Congress party is supporting the farmers from Punjab who are demanding that this reform should be repealed. Therefore, the Congress party seems to confused about its stand on middlemen, and it should clarify does it want middlemen or not. In their manifesto for 2019 Lok Sabha election, the party had promised to remove the APMC system citing the same issue of middlemen, and now they are protesting against a law that does the same thing.
It is also notable that former Congress president Rahul Gandhi has been very vocal against the new farm laws, alleging that govt is dismantling the APMC system. But the fact is that the state that he represents in Lok Sabha, Kerala, does not even have APMC markets. As PM Modi noted today, if the APMC system is so good, they should demand it in Kerala also. But displaying blatant hypocrisy, the opposition parties continue to support the farmer protests against the farm laws while themselves not implementing pro-farmer policies and schemes of the central govt.