Union minister for agriculture and farmer welfare Narendra Singh Tomar addresses media during a press conference, at BJP headquarters, in New Delhi.(Sanjeev Verma/HT PHOTO)
Union minister for agriculture and farmer welfare Narendra Singh Tomar addresses media during a press conference, at BJP headquarters, in New Delhi.(Sanjeev Verma/HT PHOTO)

Those who believe in status quo can’t make history: Narendra Singh Tomar

Narendra Singh Tomar said he is hopeful that farmers will recognise the benefits of the reforms.
By Smriti Kak Ramachandran | Hindustan Times, New Delhi
UPDATED ON DEC 13, 2020 04:50 AM IST

The government’s offer to make amendments to the new farm laws has not resulted in a breakthrough with the protesting farmers, but agriculture minister Narendra Singh Tomar said he is hopeful that farmers will recognise the benefits of the reforms. The government has said it was ready for talks and hopes that genuine farmers’ unions will step forward to find a solution through dialogue, Tomar said in an interview with Smriti Kak Ramachandran. Edited excerpts:

Amendments proposed by the government dilute the reforms, which are necessary for growth of agriculture. You are also ready to bring an amendment to allow states to levy a cess on private markets. Since you have yielded so much, why not repeal the laws?

The essence of the laws is still there. But whatever we could do to find ways to resolve the concerns of farmers has been done. We have made that attempt through the amendments. The reforms were aimed at increasing competition; so far only licensed traders could buy in the mandis, now everyone can. As competition increases, the farmers will get better remuneration.

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The reforms will continue. Take for instance contract farming, it is aimed at ensuring a guaranteed price for their produce, security of their farming land, increase private investment, and addresses the issue of globally followed agricultural practices.

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Farmers fear that the reforms benefit corporate entities more.

The fear that it will take away their land is baseless. So far in states such as Maharashtra, Punjab, Haryana, Gujarat and Karnataka contract farming is already being practised. So far no one’s land has been grabbed. In the act we have made a provision that the farmer can opt out of the contract, but the buyers cannot and if they do, then they have to pay a penalty of 150%.

Do you blame the Congress for instigating the farmers?

I have always said this about the Congress that they have to leave behind their dual-faced politics. They spoke about these reforms in their election manifesto; when the UPA {United Progressive Alliance} was in power they made attempts to introduce these reforms, but could not because of dabav and prabhav (pressure and influence) (of allies). PM [Narendra] Modi Ji does not give in to pressure or influence.

Either the Congress party was trying to mislead the country when they mentioned these reforms in their manifesto or they are trying to mislead the country now by opposing them.

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Opposition parties wanted the farm laws to be debated more and sent to a select committee. Why was the government reluctant?

The government did not shy away from discussions, but there was no need to send it to the select committee. A select committee is not above Parliament. Four hours were spent debating these laws in Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha. All parties put forth their views. It was passed in Lok Sabha and in Rajya Sabha; when I rose to speak, some opposition MPs created a ruckus in the house and put a blot on the democratic process. What were they doing for four hours if they were not discussing it? They could have sat and heard the discussions and when voting took place they could’ve voted against it — that is how democracy works. It is a myth that there was no discussion...

The farmers have demanded setting up of dedicated agri courts. Farmers are worried they might not be able to fight big corporate entities.

There is no issue of dedicated courts. The Act provides for SDM {sub-divisional magistrate} to resolve problems within 30 days and there are no decisions that can be given against the farmer. They think the SDM will not be able to give justice, therefore, they should be given permission to go to court. If somebody wants to go to court, they can do so, but we want resolution to happen at the SDM’s level, quickly and without problems. The government does not have any ego in this.

How would you describe the discussions held so far? Has there been any breakthrough?

We have been successful in putting forth what we have to say. The unions have not been able to reach a decision because there is no consensus among them. I want to thank the media… in the last few days they have put out news which is very shocking… that there are many Left-affiliated elements that have infiltrated these protests. There are those who are seeking the release of those who are anti-national. These elements are not allowing the talks to come to fruition. Are those raising slogans for Sharjeel Imam farmers? These are Leftists who oppose every reform announced by Narendra Modi...It has become a fashion for them to oppose whatever good is being proposed to strengthen the country.

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The anti CAA protests were called off after the court’s intervention. Do you think that is how you will be able to end this stalemate?

I feel the genuine farmers’ unions will step forward and will take a decision in favour of the farmers. I have hope that they will do so.

Is the BJP worried about the electoral impact this agitation will have?

It is imperative that when we go out to do something good there is a period of struggle and pain. Itihaas wohi banate hai jo itihaas se aage nikal jaate hai (those who move ahead of times make history) and those who believe in status quo cannot create history. Even the UPA wanted to make these reforms but they couldn’t

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