Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar on Sunday expressed dismay over Nationalist Congress Party supremo Sharad Pawar’s tweets criticising the farm laws, saying they were a mix of “ignorance and misinformation” about the legislation, and hoped that the veteran leader will change his stand after knowing the “facts”.
In a series of tweets, Pawar had on Saturday said the new agriculture laws of the Union government will adversely impact the Minimum Support Price procurement and weaken the ‘Mandi’ system.
The tweets by Pawar — who as the agriculture minister during the United Progressive Alliance period had pitched for these reforms — came at a time when talks between the Centre and the 41 protesting farmers’ unions have reached a deadlock.
Responding to the NCP leader’s remarks, Tomar said Pawar, who is a veteran leader, is also considered well-versed with the issues and solutions relating to agriculture. “Pawar himself tried hard to bring the same agriculture reforms earlier.”
“Since he speaks with some experience and expertise on the issue, it was dismaying to see his tweets employ a mix of ignorance and misinformation on the agriculture reforms. Let me take this opportunity to present some facts,” Tomar said on Twitter.
The minister countered Pawar’s tweet which said that the amended Essential Commodities Act “may lead to apprehensions that corporates may purchase commodities at lower rates and stockpile and sell at higher prices to consumers.”
“The apprehension has no basis. Under the EC Act, the central government can intervene in case of extraordinary circumstances including war, famine, extraordinary price rise and natural calamities of grave nature,” Tomar said.
He said the new laws encourage additional choice channels for farmers as they can sell their produce to anyone, anywhere with a hassle- free movement in and outside the state to realise a competitive and better net price for their produce.
“This doesn’t affect the current MSP (minimum support price) system,” he added.
Under the new ecosystem, the minister said, the mandis are not affected. Instead, they will be more competitive and cost-effective in terms of services and infrastructure; and both the systems will synergistically co-exist for the common interest of farmers.
Tomar said: “As he (Pawar) is such a veteran leader, I would like to believe that he was genuinely misinformed of the facts. Now that he has the right facts, I hope he will also change his stand and also explain the benefits to our farmers.”
Pawar, in his tweets on January 30, had expressed concern over the removal of stock limits on food commodities under the amended EC Act.
“Stock piling limits have been removed on food grain, pulses, onion, potato, oilseeds etc. It may lead to apprehensions that Corporates may purchase commodities at lower rates and stock pile and sell at higher prices to consumers,” he had tweeted.
The NCP chief also said that reform is a continuous process and no one would argue against the reforms in the APMCs or Mandi System.
“A positive argument on the same does not mean that it is done to weaken or demolish the system,” he noted.
The government has offered some concessions including keeping the new farm laws on hold for 1-1.5 years and the Supreme Court has set up a panel to look into the matter keeping the contentious legislation in abeyance for two months.
However, the agitating farmers’ unions have rejected both and intensified their over two-month-long agitation on the borders of the national capital.