The government is inspired by “Trumpism” and is all about “my way or the highway,” Congress leader P Chidambaram said today on the farmer protests against three new farm laws.
In an interview to NDTV, Mr Chidambaram, a former Finance Minister, also rubbished the ruling BJP’s allegations about hypocrisy over farm reforms.
“The only ego I can see is the ego of the (Narendra) Modi government. My way or the highway. I have made this law, I have a majority, that’s it. Their inspiration is Donald Trump,” Mr Chidambaram said.
“This attitude of the government, I won’t consult anyone, I won’t consult the opposition…I will pass a law. If you force a vote, will ensure there is no vote in the house. There was no vote in the Rajya Sabha. This is known as Trumpism. Trumpism is the word that describes what the Modi government is doing,” he remarked.
The Congress is among opposition parties — and some central government allies — who have backed the farmer protests against laws that they fear will deprive them of assured earnings on their produce and leave them at the mercy of corporates who will control prices.
In talks so far, the government has offered to amend the laws but farmers say they want them scrapped.
Mr Chidambaram said the government should “use that legislative tool called repeal and reenact” if that satisfies farmers.
“This bill is anti-farmer. Not a pro-market bill as it is being projected. This is a bill that paves the way for corporates, weakens the APMC (Agricultural Produce Market Committee) system. It takes away the sole safety net of farmers and sends a fear among farmers that eventually it will be an unregulated environment in which they will sell their produce,” said the Congress veteran.
On Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, accusing the Congress of doing a 180-degree after initiating these reforms when it was in power, Mr Chidambaram put out a strong rebuttal.
“The Law Minister’s words are not the gospel truth. Read our manifesto. Our manifesto said marketing of agricultural produce must be reformed, there is no quarrel on that, but in a way farmers do not end up feeling cheated, deprived of the only safety net they have and leave them at the mercy of corporates,” he said.
“What we proposed was to establish markets in large villages and small towns. Multiple markets, thousands of markets, and make them accessible to the farmer. But with light regulation — prices should be fixed at not less than the Minimum Support Price (MSP). Then the APMC becomes irrelevant over a period of time. These farm acts dilute, diminish and debilitate the sole safety net for farmers.”
On the government arguing that the laws would create more markets for the farmers to sell, the former minister called it a “wrong assumption” and asserted: “The government bill gives an unregulated environment.”
Agriculture markets are governed by Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC) laws enacted by the state governments. Farmers can sell their produce at the APMC or state-run markets, at minimum guaranteed prices.
Farmers say the new laws seek to create a parallel marketplace and dilute APMCs, thus reducing their protection.