Farmer death warrant: Congress on bills
The Congress on Sunday described the passage of the contentious farm-related bills in Parliament as a “death warrant” for farmers, declaring its intent to launch political and legal battles to defeat what it said was a government plan to facilitate a corporate takeover of the agriculture sector.
Asserting that such a conspiracy would never succeed, Congress MP Rahul Gandhi said: “The farmer who cultivates gold from land, the arrogance of the Narendra Modi government has forced him to shed tears of blood. The manner in which the death warrant for farmers was issued in the garb of legislation passed in the Rajya Sabha today has shamed democracy.”
The former Congress president added: “How will the farmers get MSP (minimum support price) after these black laws abolish the mandi system? Why is there no guarantee of MSP? Modi is turning farmers into slaves of capitalists. The country will never allow this to happen.”
While farmers blocked several roads in Haryana on Sunday, hundreds of protesters from Punjab began a march towards Delhi. The protests have been the most widespread in Punjab. There have been demonstrations in Maharashtra, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, western Uttar Pradesh and Chhattisgarh as well.
Senior leader Ahmed Patel said September 20 would be remembered as a “black day” in India’s history as the Centre had attacked not only farmers but also federalism.
Congress spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi hinted at a legal challenge, saying: “The bills have not been passed; the government has claimed the passage of the bills on the basis of the tyranny of majoritarianism. Amendments and resolutions were moved, division of votes was demanded but the government just bulldozed its way through this. The Constitution is clear that laws relating to agriculture trade can be passed by states only. This will be struck down by the Supreme Court.”
Former finance minister P. Chidambaram tweeted: “The agriculture minister says that the government will guarantee that the farmer will get MSP. Private trade takes place even today. The price paid to the farmer is invariably less than MSP. If the agriculture minister can magically ensure MSP, why has he not done that so far? How will the minister know which farmer sold his produce to which trader? How will he know the millions of transactions that will take place every day all over the country?”
The Congress senior added: “If he (agriculture minister) does not have the data, how will he guarantee MSP is paid in every transaction? Does the minister and the government think that the farmers are so foolish to believe the empty promise of the government?
“Did the Modi government fulfill the promise of putting Rs 15 lakh in the bank account of every Indian? Did the Modi government fulfill the promise to double the farmers’ incomes? Did the Modi government fulfill the promise to create two crore jobs every year?”
Party communications chief Randeep Surjewala compared the government’s move to push through the proposed farm reforms to the situation during British rule. Like the British who tried to snatch the rights of the Indians, Surjewala said “an autocratic ruler is now trying to snatch the land of the farmers”.
The Congress spokesperson said: “The Prime Minister should directly answer: Who and how will the MSP be paid once the mandi system is over? Will the Food Corporation of India go to every farm of 15.5 crore farmers to offer MSP? Why has the law not incorporated a guarantee for MSP? Even the British said, we are giving freedom from Mughal rule. If what the government is saying is true, why are 250 farmers’ organisations protesting?”
The Congress general secretary in charge of organisation, K.C. Venugopal, issued a statement condemning the “high-handedness” shown in the Rajya Sabha as a “murder of democracy”. He said violation of established parliamentary norms had become the new normal as an “authoritarian” government was bulldozing democratic practices to help its capitalist friends.