Amidst ongoing farmers’ protests in Punjab and Delhi, opposition leaders have come forward in support of the ‘farmers’. As the new farm laws have become a matter of discussion in every corner of the country, political leaders are trying to exploit them for their benefit. But at what cost? Thousands of farmers are lodged on the borders of Delhi. They are interrupting the supply chain in the National Capital, making it difficult for many factories and businesses to operate smoothly.
These businesses have already suffered a lot due to Covid-19 this year, and the agitation is only adding up to their worries. CII had warned earlier this month that the agitation is going to have an adverse effect on the Indian economy.
Congress’s leaders are telling the world that the farm laws are “black laws” or “kaale kanoon,” and the government must take them back. Rahul Gandhi, being the “rising star” who has been discovered and launchyed and relaunched so many times in the past few years, has talked extensively against these laws. But are they earnest about the farm laws? Or they just want to add fuel and enjoy the popcorns from some holiday destination? To be noted that Rahul Gandhi is currently in Italy.
Though he is not in the country, Gandhi did not forget to provoke the protesters. In a tweet on December 28, he said that the government must take back the Agriculture laws.
किसान की आत्मनिर्भरता के बिना देश कभी आत्मनिर्भर नहीं बन सकता।— Rahul Gandhi (@RahulGandhi) December 28, 2020
कृषि विरोधी क़ानून वापस लो।
किसान बचाओ, देश बचाओ!
To understand, how opposition leaders, intellectuals, journalists, farmers’ unions and professional protestors have shifted their argument from removing APMC to repeal reforms in Agriculture sector, it is essential to travel in the past. Let’s dig into some statements made by top Congress leaders and others in the past when they vouched for the same “Kaale Kanoon” they are trying to oppose now.
Amethi Food Park – the dream project of Rahul Gandhi
Starting with Rahul Gandhi, in 2015, when he was a Member of Parliament from his ‘beloved’ Amethi, he proposed the ‘Amethi Food Park’. As per Rahul’s speech in Lok Sabha, when he was in Amethi, a farmer asked him a question about the low prices potato farmers get for their crop. He asked him that he gets Rs.2 per KG for potato in government authorized to market, but when Lays use the same potato to make potato chips, a single chips packet containing just one potato sells at Rs 10. How is that possible?
Gandhi said that if there are no middle-men in the markets, and farmers can sell their produce directly to the factories, it will increase farmers’ income by several folds. He also advocated for farmers’ freedom to sell directly to private enterprises without middlemen.
It is a fact that Gandhi favoured trade outside the APMC market, and it has to be noted that companies like Frito Lays (Pepsi), Bingo (ITC) and others practice contract farming to get products directly from the market. It is a common practice for decades. Rahul Gandhi seemed to have no knowledge of it whatsoever. Also, it has to be noted that Gandhi had lost Amethi Smriti Irani in 2019. No reason to remind it here, but still, it has to be noted.
FDI in retail will allow farmers to sell produce to corporate – Sonia Gandhi
But is it only Rahul Gandhi who was in favour of similar changes to farm laws? Apparently no. The ‘unsung ruler’ behind the Congress-led UPA government, Sonia Gandhi, had talked extensively in favour of FDI in retail. On several occasions, she said that her party was committed to the benefit of the farmers and FDI will increase their income and reduce the cost for the consumers.
She said that when farmers sell their produce directly to the companies (that the new Agriculture Laws talk about), they will get a better price. On the other hand, as the retail chains would have to pay less than what they pay to middlemen, the end-user price of the product will come down. If she is to believe, it was a win-win situation for everyone.
If farmers sell produce to factories and retailers, it will bring the prices down – Dr. Manmohan Singh
The former Prime Minister was a great economist and an amazing reformer, at least according to the Congress Party. During his tenure as the prime minister of India, he made some difficult decisions which were supported by Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi. It is essential to point out that they supported the reforms brought by Singh as without their approval they would not have become laws anyway.
If you remember, Rahul Gandhi tends to tear ordinances and bills in the parliament. Anyway, during his speech on November 4, 2012, Dr. Manmohan Singh said that his government’s decision to allow FDI in retail would benefit farmers and consumers.
Dr. Singh said that farmers would be able to sell products directly to retailers. As there will be no middlemen in the process, the cost of the products will come down for the retailers. They will shift the benefit to the consumers by bringing down the price of the products on the shelves. It will also help strengthen the supply of food products to every corner of the country at an affordable price.
Singh said that a large portion of the produce is spoiled as there is not enough storage capacity in the country (in the recently enacted laws, a similar provision has been made to allow storage of food products up to ceiling capacity of the storage units). Allowing FDI in retail will bring investment in India concentrated on acquiring, storage and processing of the produce. The farmers will be able to bring their produce directly to the markets (new laws allow trade outside APMC), and eventually, it will bring down the cost and control inflation. Singh also emphasized the fact that it will increase job opportunities for the people.
Akalis to be blamed for loss of Agri-business worth Rs.3000 crore in Punjab – Captain Amrinder Singh
Chief Minister of Punjab Captain Amrinder Singh is a man of his words. Being from a royal family, it is his virtue that he speaks the truth. In 2016, Capt Singh had blamed the then-Akali government for not letting retail agri-business flourish in Punjab. He said that he brought major players in the state that would have benefited over 1.5 lakh farmers, but the Akali government shelved the plan.
According to Singh, it was a major loss. Interestingly, recently Congress-led Punjab Government had suggested opening private farm markets in Punjab as an attempt to counter the effect of Covid-19 in the state. Now, of course, he is singing a different tune on the farm laws.
Shashi Tharoor’s flip flops on farm laws
Loved by many, the gospel of English language, Congress leader Shashi Tharoor can talk in an alien-ish English. If I ever try to replicate his style, my readability score will surrender as the Pakistani Army did in the 1971 war. Anyway, he was part of the march to Rashtrapati Bhawan in support of the protesting farmers. In a picture that he had shared on his official Twitter account, Tharoor was holding a placard that read “Congress with farmers.”
Not long ago, on June 10, Shashi Tharoor said, “Middlemen are profiting at the expense of our sweat-stained farmers.” Five months passed, and just like a goldfish, his memory goes puff, maybe?
Interestingly, Tharoor was in favour of removing middlemen in 2011 as well. In 2011, he said in support of FDI that people would pay much less and farmers will get more. He had alleged that “middlemen make us pay5x times what farmer gets.”
Congress Spokesperson Supriya Shrinate blamed middlemen for rising prices of onion
Congress leader and spokesperson Supriya Shrinate is actively criticizing the government on the farm laws. if you scroll through her Twitter account, there are countless tweets blaming union government for imposing ‘black laws’. However, in 2019, while addressing the press on the increasing price of onion, the same Supriya Shrinate had blamed the middlemen for the rise in the prices.
She said, “A recent study by Consortium of Indian farmers association has said that it’s not supply constraints but hoarding by middlemen that’s responsible for the soaring onion prices. We urge the government to find a permanent solution instead of a quick fix.” The video is available on Congress’s official Youtube channel.
It is not possible to decide which side Congress is on. On the one hand, they talk about major reforms in every sector in India. They talk about disinvestment, FDI, improving infrastructure, helping corporate to flourish and more. However, on the other hand, they talk against the same reforms when brought by the NDA government.
Now, in the words of Congress leaders like Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi, there can be two reasons for such diverse thought processes within their own selves. The first reason is misinformation. The leaders themselves are misinformed about the laws. They do not have enough data and information with them to take a firm decision on which side they want to choose. The second reason, which is more likely as they are political leaders, is political vendetta.
How can they allow the reforms, they had talked about in detail to be brought, by the party that has defeated them twice in the Lok Sabha elections? How can they allow BJP to take credit that will help BJP in the next Lok Sabha elections? It is simply not possible for the grand party of India to let this happen. The party, which has already come down to 55 seats and losing states faster than Rahul Gandhi is getting grey hair, cannot allow major reforms that will help farmers and consumers in the long run.
The farm laws saga continues beyond Gandhis and Congress
If we look around, travel to the past, pull some more strings and hop on the time machine, we will find some more gems from leaders, economists, intellectuals and journalists. These people had talked on the same lines on the farm laws as Congress leaders. However, just like the goldfish that has short-lived memory, which, according to scientists, can last for up to five months, these bunch of people have forgotten what they had supported in the past. Let’s discuss these amazing people. Shall we?
Pritish Nandy was against middlemen before PM Modi came to power
Poet and journalist Pritish Nandy, on December 6, had asked if the farmers don’t want the farm laws, why the government is so arrogant in imposing the laws?
Interestingly, the same Nandy, a former parliamentarian, who joined Rajya Sabha on Shiv Sena’s ticket, had talked extensively against the middlemen in the Agriculture sector on several occasions. In 2010, while replying to actor-politician Gul Panag, he said that in the name of farmers, only traders and middlemen are making money.
In 2013, he again said that it is the middlemen who make money on fruits and vegetables.
BTW do you know Balasaheb Thackeray regretted sending ‘idiot’ Pritish Nandy to Rajya Sabha? He had said, “Actually, I am the idiot, not Pritish. He took Rajya Sabha from me and I figured only much later, too late, that he is Christian.”
Akhilesh Yadav had called for the removal of middlemen to ensure better infrastructure
The Prince of Uttar Pradesh, the messiah of the poor and friend of Rahul Gandhi, the one who had to be saved along with Rahul from low hanging wires in UP during an election rally, Akhilesh Yadav is one of those who seem to have lost his perspective about middlemen.
On December 25, Yadav had said that the BJP government is working for the corporate houses and not the farmers. On December 27, he said, “This is an insult to farmers, who are staging a sit-in for their rights. The BJP, while supporting its favourite capitalist friends, is walking a path which is against farmers, labourers and those from the lower-middle-income group. The government is giving Kisan Samman, but the new farm laws will cause losses worth thousands and lakhs to farmers.”
Interestingly, not long ago, Yadav had talked about the ‘problem’ named middlemen in the Agriculture sector. He said, “We need to remove the influence of brokers and middlemen to ensure value addition infrastructure is built and farmers and their families are the primary beneficiaries.” But alas, it seems like he had forgotten what he had said in 2019.
Former RBI governor Raghuram Rajan had vouched for removing middlemen
One of the most-favoured and talked-about former governor of RBI by intellectuals and opposition leaders, Raghuram Rajan, has said in an interview with the ‘very famous’ journalist Barkha Dutt that the best way out here will be to find a way to let both systems flourish and create a competitive market for the farmers so that they can get better prices. Though he is talking sense here, the issue is back in 2014, before PM Modi came to power, Raghuram Rajan wanted to eliminate the middlemen completely.
Rajan had said on APMC Act, “There is a need to reduce the wedge between what the farmer gets and what is paid by the household by reducing the role, number, and monopoly power of middlemen as well as by improving logistics.”
The Bharatiya Kisan Union had asked for similar reforms in farm laws
The BKU had repeatedly asked for the removal of middlemen in Punjab to ensure direct payments to farmers. In its 2019 manifesto had asked for the abolition of APMCs and Essential Commodities Act. They seem to have taken a completely opposite stand now.
High time farmers are freed from system of arhtiyas. @irvpaswan has written to @PunjabGovtIndia— Bhartiya Kisan Union (@BKU_KisanUnion) March 2, 2019
BKU has been requesting this for a long time. But Governments have failed to liberate farmers under pressure from #Arhtiyas #commissionagent @thetribunechd @Jairam_Ramesh pic.twitter.com/FpcvIvMxt5
Farm Laws Reforms need patience and amendments
No reform is perfect. No lawmaker is perfect. On December 25, while addressing the nation during the disbursement of the PM-KISAN instalment, PM Modi said that we could not claim that God has given us all the knowledge. He further added that the government is open to discussion and have an open mind for a solution.
He said, “There is democracy, and we don’t claim that God has given us all the knowledge, but there should be discussion. In spite of all these things, the government is ever ready to discuss every issue of farmers because of our unwavering faith and respect in democracy and because of our dedication to the farmers. We have an open mind for a solution.”
Everyone knows that once the law is formed, it takes years of amendments and further reforms in the farm laws to ensure they benefit the people of the nation. There is no way that anyone, any government, lawmaker, or court can form a 100% perfect law in the first draft. There should be discussion and room for improvement that the government is ready to do.
However, the vested political interests of the opposition parties, left-leaning unions and Khalistanis (everyone knows they are trying to overtake the protests. Let’s not become blind on the issue.), terrorist organizations and professional protesters are not letting any path to open that may lead to a solution.