New Delhi, Oct. 2: Union commerce minister Anand Sharma today decried attempts by some parties to threaten the government and declared that the decision to allow foreign direct investment in multi-brand retail would not be reversed, come what may.
Addressing a farmers’ meeting at the Congress headquarters, Sharma said: “Don’t try to threaten us, to scare us. The Congress has always taken tough decisions in the larger national interest without worrying about the political consequences. We know how to fight back, we know how to answer these forces.”
Sharma said this while explaining that Mamata Banerjee could take decisions for Bengal, not for Haryana, Maharashtra and any other state, subtly referring to her threat yesterday to bring a no-confidence motion against the Manmohan Singh government.
“No state has veto power…. This is against the democratic spirit… that ‘you listen to me and no other state’. Many states want FDI and we will let them have it,” he added.
Sharma recalled how Opposition parties declared India’s labour force would be destroyed when Rajiv Gandhi brought in computers.
Some farmer leaders, too, cited similar examples. “We were told by some politicians that villagers won’t be able to even use neem datun (neem for brushing teeth) after the WTO agreement,” a leader said.
The farmers, who met Sonia Gandhi at her residence after the meeting and thanked her for the decision, were neither too enthused by the dividends FDI is supposed to bring to agriculture nor unduly worried about its feared negative fallout.
Marshalled by their leaders from Punjab, Haryana, western Uttar Pradesh and outer Delhi, many farmers were not even aware of the purpose of the meeting.
Asked if they had turned up to support FDI, many farmers expressed ignorance and asserted that they were brought for a meeting with Sonia.
But their leaders were charged up, reeling out incisive arguments to stress the virtue of the FDI decision. They lamented how potatoes bought in Jalandhar from the farmer at Rs 1 per kg were being sold in Delhi for Rs 20 after a journey of barely eight hours. The theme song was “loot by middlemen”, which hurts both the consumer and the producer.
They spoke of consumer-farmer unity and entreated the government to replace the middlemen with an organised supply chain.
Injecting another argument, the leaders said adulteration was also the contribution of middlemen as farmers always sold “pure produce”.
Bhupinder Singh Mann, the president of All India Kisan Co-ordination Committee, took the lead in congratulating the government, asked for better and bigger markets for their produce and appealed to the farmers from all over the country not to be swayed by “negative propaganda”.
The commerce minister explained how the FDI decision would lead to rural investments, curtail wastage of perishable items and create infrastructure. The minister received applause when he promised jobs for rural youths in food processing industry in villages.
A memorandum submitted to Sonia by the farmers sought a slew of policy measures to support the agriculture sector.