Congress leader Rahul Gandhi accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday of trying to clear the path for his “friends” through the three new farm laws, saying he is threatening farmers when he cannot stand up to China.
Addressing a farmers’ “mahapanchayat” in Pilibanga town of Rajasthan’s Hanumangarh district, Mr Gandhi claimed the laws will impact 40 per cent of Indians. After demonetisation and the implementation of the Goods and Services Tax (GST), the new farm laws are another blow to the people of the country, he said.
He also referred to the India-China agreement on disengagement of troops in eastern Ladakh, alleging that the PM Modi government ceded territory between fingers 3 and 4 on the banks of Pangong lake.
“He would not stand before China but threatens farmers. This is the reality of Narendra Modi,” Mr Gandhi charged.
This was the first of two farmers’ meetings organised by the Congress in Rajasthan on Friday. Instead of chairs, cots were placed on the dais for party leaders to sit upon.
He was scheduled to speak next in Sri Ganganagar district.
Mr Gandhi said the new laws do not affect just the farmers, adding that his party will ensure that they are withdrawn. “Forty per cent people who include farmers, traders and labourers will be hit by the implementation of the laws,” he claimed.
“Earlier, it was the demonetisation and I had said it was not a fight against black money, and the backbone of the country was being broken. But people didn’t understand this at that time,” he said.
“Later, it came to be known that loans of three or four persons were waived and your money went to the banks,” he said, without substantiating the charge.
“After this, the GST was implemented, which was an attack on small and mid-size businesses. Narendra Modi wants to clear the way for his friends,” Mr Gandhi alleged, without naming anyone.
The Congress leader claimed that with the implementation of the new laws, government mandis will shut down and big businessmen will monopolise the purchase of farm produce.
He predicted there will be hoarding. “If a single person wants to purchase the country’s entire grain, it can be done. What mandi system will remain then?” he said.
“The first law is meant to finish the mandi system. The second law is about unlimited hoarding. It means one person can control prices. When this starts, top rich businessmen of this country will start hoarding,” he said.
The third law is about snatching the rights of farmers to seek justice, he claimed.
“The objective of the laws is to shift the business of 40 per cent people to two or three people. What will happen to those who sell grain, fruit and vegetables on roads if only one company starts selling grain, fruits or vegetables of the entire country?” he said
“This is not an attack on farmers alone but on 40 per cent of the country’s population, and these people will become unemployed,” he claimed.
Mr Gandhi said farmers have understood this and they are at the forefront against the new laws.
He said that Congress has always struggled to ensure that the business of agriculture is not controlled by a limited number of people.
“Narendra Modi says the laws were brought for farmers. But if this was so, why are the farmers disappointed and agitating and why have 200 farmers died,” he asked.
The Congress was referring to the thousands of farmers camping at Delhi’s borders for weeks, demanding the repeal of the new laws.
Several have died of various causes, including accidents and suicide in Punjab and Haryana during the protests.
Farmer unions and opposition parties say the new laws will weaken the minimum support price (MSP) system through which farmers sell their crops in mandis. They claim that the system benefits private businesses.
But the government says the new laws give farmers the option to sell their produce anywhere, and they are still free to sell them at mandis at the MSP.
Targeting the prime minister and the BJP, Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot said they have no faith in democracy, secularism and socialism.
“Look at how the prime minister talks and comments. His comments are below the dignity of a prime minister,” he said.
AICC general secretaries Ajay Maken and KC Venugopal, state Congress chief Govind Singh Dotasra, former deputy chief minister Sachin Pilot and other party leaders attended the event.