The Congress party has been actively milking the ongoing farmer protests to peddle its falsehoods and turn the supposedly ‘organic’ agitation into a mass movement. However, in an attempt to do so, the grand old party has now exposed its own failures in bringing prosperity in the lives of farmers.
On Friday, Congress President Rahul Gandhi targeted the BJP and tweeted, “Farmers (across India) want to have their income at par with that of farmers in Punjab. However, the Modi government wants farmers to have their income as low as that of farmers in Bihar.” The Congress Vice-President, who wanted to take potshots at the current political dispensation, ended up scoring a self-goal.
It is important to point out that the data is based on the Situation Assessment Survey of Agricultural Household, conducted between January to December 2013. “How much do farmers earn? An average Indian farming household earns ₹77,124 in a year, translating to ₹6,427 monthly, barely enough to cover the monthly expenditure of ₹6223. That leaves negligible savings in hand,” the infographic tweeted by Rahul Gandhi stated.
किसान चाहता है कि उसकी आय पंजाब के किसान जितनी हो जाए।— Rahul Gandhi (@RahulGandhi) December 11, 2020
मोदी सरकार चाहती है कि देश के सब किसानों की आय बिहार के किसान जितनी हो जाए। pic.twitter.com/8lqEfUf2td
Tweet by Rahul Gandhi puts Congress party in the dock
Interestingly, back in 2013, it was the Congress-led UPA government which was in power and had the legislative power to improve the lives of the farmers in Bihar. The answer, for the disparity in income between a farmer in Punjab and that of a farmer in Bihar, must therefore be sought from the Congress party and not the BJP. In a bid to target the BJP for the party’s own failure in ensuring increased farmer income, Congress scion Rahul Gandhi ended up scoring a self-goal.
Coincidentally, the infographic, based on obsolete data, was tweeted yesterday by ‘journalist’ and Congress loyalist Rajdeep Sardesai. “How much do our farmers earn? Here is a chart that gives you state-wise figures.. offered without comment!” he had tweeted. And a day later, the Rahul Gandhi had decided to repost it, without realising that the political implications of it. As expected, it backfired on the Congress leader.
How much do our farmers earn? Here is a chart that gives you state wise figures.. offered without comment! 🙏 pic.twitter.com/9zNnfpFWvs— Rajdeep Sardesai (@sardesairajdeep) December 10, 2020
The Union government, passed the historic farm laws, to provide farmers with the flexibility to choose where they want to sell their produce. The newly enacted laws are designed to help farmers receive a fair price for their crops while ending the monopoly of the commission agents and the middlemen. Had the Congress party implemented the farm laws in 2013 itself, it would have provided significant relief to farmers in Bihar.
Bihar has seen highest growth in agriculture sector
While Bihar farmers earned much less in 2013 compared to other states, the farm productivity in the state has improved a lot after that, especially after APMC Act was repealed in the state by Nitish Kumar government. Between 2011-12 and 2018-19, India’s agriculture growth rate was 7.5 per cent while it was 13.3 per cent in Bihar, almost double.
Earlier, between 2005-06 and 2014-15, Bihar’s agricultural growth was 4.7 per cent while India’s agriculture sector grew by 3.6 per cent. In the same period, Punjab’s agricultural growth rate was only 1.61 per cent.
Congress party’s U-turn on farm laws
The Congress party, which is now vocal against the farm laws, had earlier supported the idea of private investment in agriculture sector and ending the monopoly of the APMC markets.
A report from 2010 titled, “Report of the Working Group on Agriculture Production” had earlier come to light wherein former Congress CM Bhupinder Singh Hooda was seen advocating the same ideas, as espoused by the BJP now. “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. He pointed out that since Mandis was regulated by the government, private investment for storage and transportation of crops was scarce.
In an old interview with NDTV, the NCP supremo Sharad Pawar, who was the then agriculture Minister under UPA regime, 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.
Congress party behind anti-farm law agitation, says BJP
As per reports, the BJP has accused the Congress and the commission agents of provoking the farmers for their ulterior motives. BJP leader and spokesperson for economic affairs, Gopal Krishna Agarwal added that the efforts of the government were being marred by a motivated campaign of opposition parties and commission agents.
Agarwal said that the new farm laws had threatened the control of commission agents over the markets and that they were therefore spreading rumours, surrounding the Minimum Support Price (MSP) and the ‘abolishment’ of the Mandi system, with the support of the Congress party. He had also questioned the timing of the renewed protests. Agarwal said that questions surrounding the agricultural laws were addressed in June itself. He added that the resurgence of the agitation in November implied that the farmers had been provoked and misled.