Congress backs Bharat Bandh called by farmer unions

Congress backs Bharat Bandh called by agitating farmer unions

Farmer groups have said the farm laws will end the mandi and MSP procurement systems and leave the farmers at the mercy of big corporates

Congress spokesperson Gourav Vallabh. Credit: PTI Photo

The Congress on Saturday extended support to the Bharat Bandh call given by farmer unions against the Centre's three agri laws and demanded that discussions be initiated with the protesters.

Congress spokesperson Gourav Vallabh said the Congress party and all its workers will support the "peaceful Bharat Bandh on September 27, called by farmer unions and farmers".

"We demand that the due process of discussion with the farmers should be initiated because they are sitting on the borders of Delhi for last more than nine months. We demand that these three black laws, which were imposed without any consultation, should be taken back," he also said.

Read more: Farmers urge Biden to ask Modi to repeal farm laws

The Congress leader also demanded that the MSP should be given as a legal right to every farmer "as they do not want only 'jumlas' (rhetoric)" and referred to Prime Minister Narendra Modi's promise to double the farmers' income by 2022.

"If we compare 2012-13 income of a farmer family with his income in 2018-19, the income due to farming in the total income of a farmer has reduced from 48 percent to 38 percent," he claimed.

Vallabh cited the Situation Assessment Survey of the Government of India, which states that a farmer on average is earning Rs 27 per day.

He said that the agriculture sector suffered a permanent dent in the last seven years.

He said that the Modi government "first tried to usurp farmers' land by bringing in the Land Acquisition Ordinance in 2014 and then in 2015, it filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court that if farmers' produce is purchased on MSP, as per the formula given by Swaminathan Commission, the markets are going to be distorted".

He also said that in the name of agriculture insurance, the government gave a major portion of the agriculture budget to insurance companies, even as the cost of farming per hectare has gone up by Rs 25,000.

"This is also the first government in the last 70 years that has imposed a tax on agriculture in the form of GST, which has also been imposed on tractors, pesticides, seeds and farm equipment, and the agriculture sector is being taxed indirectly," he claimed.

The result is that the average debt of a farmer which was Rs 47,000 in 2012-13 has increased to Rs 74,121 in 2018-19, he alleged and said this is the reason the Congress is supporting the Bandh.

Vallabh said the farmers are demanding the withdrawal of three "black laws which were imposed without following any democratic process or consultation".

"They are only demanding that MSP should be given as a legal right to every farmer.

"I am surprised that why Prime Minister Modi is opposing Chief Minister Modi? When UPA-2 was in power, Chief Minister Modi gave in writing that MSP should be given as a legal right, now he is opposing his own words and his entire party is opposing his words," he said.

The government and farmer unions have held 11 rounds of talks so far, the last being on January 22, to break the deadlock and end the farmers' protest. Talks have not resumed following widespread violence during a tractor rally by protesting farmers on January 26.

The three laws -- The Farmers' Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020, The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020, and The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act 2020 -- were passed by the Parliament in September last year.

Farmer groups have said that these laws will end the mandi and MSP procurement systems and leave the farmers at the mercy of big corporates, even as the government has rejected these apprehensions as misplaced and asserted that these steps will help increase farmers' income.

The Supreme Court had in January stayed the implementation of the three laws till further orders and appointed a panel to resolve the impasse. 

Get a round-up of the day's top stories in your inbox

Check out all newsletters

Get a round-up of the day's top stories in your inbox