With farmers' agitation showing signs of firming up further despite the police crackdown after the violence during the Republic Day tractor rally, the Government reached out to numerically dominating small and marginal farmers through President Ram Nath Kovind's address to the joint sitting of Budget Session beginning Friday.
Kovind assured farmers that the new farm laws have added new rights and facilities to them instead of taking away any of the rights existing previously.
The President flagged his strong disapproval of the act of a group of farmers storming the Red Fort and hoisting a religious flag there as well as the violence in the streets on Republic Day during the farmer protest.
"The insult of the tricolour and the pious Republic Day a few days ago is very unfortunate. The Constitution gives us the right to freedom of expression and also teaches us that law and rules should also be followed with the same earnestness," he said.
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At the same time, Kovind also chose to flag that the government will go by the decision of the Supreme Court, which has put on hold the implementation of three farm laws.
"According full respect to the decision of the Supreme Court, my government will implement that," he said even as sought to make it clear that there has been no deduction in the rights and facilities that were available before the passage of these three farm laws. Rather the government has provided new rights along with providing new facilities to the farmers through these farm reforms," Kovind said.
Addressing the joint sitting, which was boycotted by nearly 20 Opposition parties, Kovind said that over 10 crore small farmers immediately started getting benefits of the three farm reform laws and recalled that many political parties had, from time to time, have given full support to these reforms taking into account the benefits accruing to small farmers.
Stressing that Parliament passed these three laws after comprehensive deliberations, Kovind said these small and marginal farmers are in the priority list of the government.
He said in order to support such farmers in meeting their small expenses, the government has directly transferred around Rs 1,13,000 crores in their accounts under the PM-Kisan Samman Nidhi scheme.
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The focus on the government's initiatives for small and marginal farmers. which constitute 82 percent of total number of farmers, in the President's speech during the Budget session — through which the government of the day lays out its vision and priority — is significant.
This is especially so as it comes at the backdrop of Opposition's attempt to paint the government anti-farmer and lend its full support to the farmers' stir, who have gathered on the outskirts of the national capital to protest against the farm laws.
"It is the demand of the time to pay special attention to small and marginal farmers in our agriculture sector, who have only one or two hectares of land. Of all the farmers in the country, more than 80 percent are these small farmers and they are more than 10 crore," Kovind said.
One of the criticisms of the ongoing farm agitation was that it was mainly led by relatively well-off farmers from Punjab, Haryana and Western UP, at least when it started two months back. The gathering later swelled with farmers from other states and other sections also joining it.
The President's address highlighting the achievements of "my government" talked at length about the measures taken by the Centre in the last six years since Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led BJP government was formed first in mid 2014.
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"In the last six years the government has tried to bring positive change in all sectors from seed to marketing (beej se bazaar tak). My government has also taken the decision to implement the recommendations of M S Swaminathan Commission and provide farmers Minimum Support Price (MSP) of one and half times the production cost of foodgrains."
The President also flagged the rise in production of vegetables and foodgrain and the rise in the area of micro irrigation from 42 lakh hectare to 56 lakh hectare land in this period.
He said the Kisan Rail facility started by the government is writing a new chapter in providing markets to farmers as more than 38 thousand tonnes of foodgrain, fruit and vegetables have been transported by farmers from one region to another through more than 100 Kisan trains run so far.
"My government is giving special attention to modernising agriculture infrastructure to make agriculture more lucrative and for this an Agriculture Infrastructure Fund of Rs 1,00,000 crore has been started. In order to create the foundational structure in the dairy sector and promote investment ther, the government has also set up a Dairy Infrastructure Development Fund (DIDF) worth 15,000 crore," the President said.
He also listed other measures like distribution of 20 lakh solar pumps under Pradhanmantri Kusum Yojan and the five-time rise in Ethanol production in last years as examples of the government's commitment to promote the agriculture sector and support farmers.