Farmers, most of them from Punjab and Haryana, want the new farm laws scrapped.
Ahead of crucial talks between the Centre and agitating farmers, the Congress on Wednesday demanded legal sanctity to the demands of farmers, including that on ensuring minimum support price. Addressing a joint press conference, Congress leaders Rajeev Shukla and Govind Dotasra said the government must immediately repeal the three new farm laws and bring fresh ones after incorporating the demands of farmers.
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi said in a tweet that the youth, public and farmers are being attacked by the Modi government. "Unemployment has hit the youth, public is facing atrocities on account of inflation and the farmers are attacked with the new laws of 'friends'. This is the Modi government," he tweeted in Hindi, citing a news report that claimed that 35 lakh jobs were taken away in the country in the month of November due to the lockdown.
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Shukla said it was also wrong on the part of the government to dub the farmers agitation as "political". He said the agitation is spread across the country with farmers of various states protesting against the farm laws, adding that it was wrong to say that farmers of only Punjab and half of Haryana were protesting.
"The government is promising to bring provisions (after accepting the demands of farmers) in the farm laws, but is not giving legal guarantee on minimum support price (MSP). We demand that if farmers are ready, MSP should be part of the law and the Parliament should pass them. "The government should ensure that legal sanctity is accorded to the demands of farmers after incorporating them in the new laws that should be passed by Parliament after repealing the present ones," Shukla told reporters.
The Congress leader also hit out at the Centre for giving "political colour" to the protest. He said political parties, including the Congress and other opposition parties, are supporting the farmers' agitation as they feel for them. "There is no harm if political parties extend their support to help such agitations. We support the 'andolan' and will exert pressure on the government to agree to the demands of farmers, which are just," he said.
Shukla said the government only wants to give verbal assurances and bring executive orders in respect of farmers demands. He added that till the time legal sanctity is accorded to the demands, the official machinery at the ground level will not implement them. He also said that the next round of talks between both the sides may fail as the central government is "adamant on not repealing the farm laws".
Dotasra, who is the Rajasthan Congress chief, said when Prime minister Narendra Modi came to power in 2014 with the help of farmers' votes, he firstly brought the land law which was aimed at "facilitating the corporate 'friends' to take farmers land".
"Modi ji again came to power in 2019 with the help of farmers' votes. He again brought the farm laws aimed at taking away the land of farmers, which will not be allowed," he said. "After taking their votes, Modi ji please work for the welfare of farmers and not for furthering the interests of your corporate friends," Dotasra said.
The Congress is demanding the repeal of the three farm laws and is also lending support to the farmers' agitation. The Union government has invited 40 protesting farmer unions on December 30 for the next round of talks on all relevant issues to find a "logical solution" to the current impasse over the three laws.
The government's invite followed a proposal made by the unions last week to hold the talks on Tuesday on agendas including modalities for the repeal of the three new laws. So far, five rounds of formal talks have remained inconclusive. The government has presented these laws as major agriculture reforms aimed at helping farmers and increasing their income, but the protesting unions fear that the new legislations will leave them at the mercy of big corporates by weakening the MSP and mandi systems.