Unconfirmed reports said some states are contemplating lowering mandi taxes charged from basmati traders after they threatened to stop procurement if rates weren’t lowered.
Modi appealed to farmers
to not be “misled by vested political interest” and assured them that the MSP system would continue. Defending the farm sector reform Bills, Modi on Friday said the Bills brought “freedom” to farmers
and give them a “protection shield”, as he accused the Opposition of standing with middlemen and “misleading” peasants by “lying” to them.
At the virtual launch of several rail projects in Bihar, Modi chose to speak at length on the Bills that have sparked protests by farmers in states like Punjab and Haryana. Modi said: “This misinformation is being spread that the government will not give MSP benefits to farmers. Manufactured claims are being made saying the government will no longer purchase wheat, rice and other grains. This is a lie aimed at deceiving farmers.”
Launching a blistering attack, without naming Congress, Modi said those who are opposing the changes in the Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC) Act had made similar promises in their manifesto. “These people forget as to how much aware the country’s farmers are. Farmers can see that some people do not like the opportunities being provided to them. They can see who are standing with the middlemen, who pocketed a big part of their earnings,” the PM said.
On Thursday, after it became clear that Shiromani Akali Dal leader Harsimrat Kaur Badal (food processing minister in the Cabinet) had resigned, Modi took to Twitter to assure farmers that the Bills won’t lead to dilution of MSP. Home Minister Amit Shah, too, said the legislation would transform the agri sector, and set farmers free from the clutches of middlemen.
Congress, meanwhile, kept up its offensive against the government with former chief Rahul Gandhi criticising the passage of the Bills as attempt by the government to loot the farmers to please its corporate friends.
Captain Amarinder Singh, Punjab CM, said the legislation were “being forced” by the BJP-led Centre as part of its “kisan maaru, Punjab maaru (destroy farmers, destroy Punjab) conspiracy”. Punjab MLA and former cricketer Navjot Singh Sidhu, too, broke his long silence and strongly opposed the legislation, leaving pundits wondering about his moves.
Congress tried to build pressure on BJP’s Haryana-ally, the Jannayak Janta Party (JJP), to spell out its stand on the Bills. But JJP leader Digvijay Singh Chautala said the party’s coalition with the BJP was going strong and said Congress was trying to mislead farmers.
Madhya Pradesh CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan assured farmers that the MSP mechanism and the functioning of mandis will remain unaffected. “In fact, the Bills will bring in reforms in the farm sector and make MSP, mandis etc more effective and farmer-friendly,” Chouhan said.
Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal appealed to all non-BJP parties to unite in the Rajya Sabha and oppose the Bills that he claimed would leave “farmers in the hands of big companies for exploitation”.
Meanwhile, some farmer groups have called for nationwide agitation from September 25 on the three Bills.