With Prime Minister Narendra Modi assuring farmers that his government was committed to their welfare, the Congress on Saturday hit out at him, saying the farmers want pro-people governance not flowery speeches and urged the Centre to accede to their demands. In a tweet, Congress’ chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala attacked Modi for his remarks at an event on Saturday that the agri reforms will be beneficial for the farmers, saying the “whole country is fed up of your enticing ‘lollypops'”.
He said the farmers want pro-people governance not flowery speeches, and the people in the country want cheap ration. The opposition party also cited a media report to claim that 11 farmers have died in the last 17 days while protesting the new agri laws, with former Congress chief Rahul Gandhi asking how many more sacrifices will the farmers have to make to get the legislations repealed.
At least five rounds of formal talks have taken place between the Centre and representatives of farmers, mainly from Punjab and Haryana, protesting on various borders of the national capital for over two weeks, but the deadlock has continued with the unions sticking to their main demand for the repeal of the three contentious laws. “How many more sacrifices will the farmers have to make to get the agri laws repealed?” Gandhi asked in a tweet in Hindi, tagging a media report which claimed that 11 protesting farmers had lost their lives in the last 17 days due to various reasons such as ill health or a mishap.
Surjewala said despite the “martyrdom of 11 farmer brothers in the last 17 days, the Modi government is not relenting”. “They (government) are still standing with their ‘money providers’ not with ‘annadaatas’ (food providers),” he alleged in a tweet in Hindi.
“The country wants to know, ‘Is Rajdharma (constitutional responsibility) bigger or Rajhat’ (stubbornness)?” Surjewala posed, tagging the media report that Gandhi also cited. In another tweet, Surjewala accused the Modi government of branding every person opposing the laws a “Maoist” and an “anti-national”, and urged the Centre to accede to the demands of the protesting farmers.
His assertion came on a day Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar said some “anti-social elements”, under the guise of farmers, are conspiring to spoil the atmosphere of the peasants’ movement and appealed to the protesting farming community to be vigilant. Food, Railway and Consumer Affairs Minister Piyush Goyal was more direct in his charge, alleging that certain Leftist and Maoist elements seem to have taken “control” of the agitation and rather than discussing farmer issues, they seem to be having some other agenda.
Tagging a media report on Goyal’s remarks, Surjewala tweeted, “Mr Modi, autocracy has no place in democracy. Yours and your ministers’ policy is to declare every opponent a Maoist and an anti-national.” “Apologise to the farmers who are on a sit-in braving the fierce cold and rains, and accede to their rightful demands immediately,” he said in a tweet in Hindi. Farmers are protesting the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020; Farmers Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020; and The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act 2020.
Enacted in September, the three farm laws have been projected by the government as major reforms in the agriculture sector that will remove the middlemen and allow farmers to sell anywhere in the country. However, the protesting farmers have expressed apprehension that the new laws would pave the way for eliminating the safety cushion of Minimum Support Price and do away with the mandis, leaving them at the mercy of big corporates.