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Farmer protests: Government bets on 'big guns' as it starts nationwide outreach initiative

The government is rolling out the ‘big guns’ including Defence Minister and the Bharatiya Janata Party’s farmer face Rajnath Singh, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar and Minister of State for Finance Anurag Thakur,

October 07, 2020 / 02:40 PM IST

Stung by the protests by farmers and criticism on the agriculture legislations and the way they were passed in Parliament, the Narendra Modi government has started a massive outreach and messaging initiative.

These include meetings with farmer bodies, local representatives, agriculture experts, and media briefings in various towns and cities. The government is rolling out the ‘big guns’ including Defence Minister and the Bharatiya Janata Party’s farmer face Rajnath Singh, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar and Minister of State for Finance Anurag Thakur, informed sources told Moneycontrol.

In fact, Sitharaman met farmer leaders and agriculture experts, and held a media briefing in Chennai on Monday, and is scheduled to hold similar meetings in Vijaywada today. Tomar and Singh have also held meetings in the northern states.

While details are being worked out, over the coming weeks, many meetings will be held in towns and cities and will be headlined by ministers and senior party functionaries.

There is a recognition of the need to talk more about how the recent farm sector legislation will help farmers in selling as per their choice, getting the price they want, and improve their incomes. That message needs to be spread throughout the country,” said a senior official.

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In the Monsoon session of Parliament, the Farmers Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020, Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, and amendments to the Essential Commodities Act were passed, amid charges by the Opposition and critics that Parliamentary procedures and rules were violated.

As the opposition parties threatened to protest, the government tried to assuage concerns of farmers by announcing the minimum support price (MSP) for the upcoming Rabi season earlier than usual.

Even as one of the government’s allies, Food Processing Minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal resigned from the cabinet, opposition states have passed their own notifications or amended their Mandi Acts to blunt the centre’s farm laws, and continue the practice of procuring through mandis.

Protests have now intensified, especially in producing states of Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan, with senior opposition figures attending rallies and protests by farmers.
Arup Roychoudhury

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