Agriculture Minister writes letter to farmers, PM urges to read
On Thursday, Agriculture Minister Narendra Tomar wrote an eight-page-long letter to farmers, in a bid to address their concerns associated with three farm laws. The letter was shared by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on his Twitter handle, with an appeal. "All farmers are requested to please read the letter," PM Modi said, while urging countrymen to ensure the message reaches more and more people.
Background: Centre said three laws will help farmers, they protested
The Centre and farmers are at loggerheads over three laws that were passed in the Monsoon Session. PM Modi's government believes these reforms will increase farmers' income, free them from chains of middlemen, and open new opportunities. But farmers think they will be left at the mercy of corporates. To force the government to withdraw the laws, they have been protesting at Delhi's borders.
Talks failed, Tomar penned a letter
After several rounds of talks with farmers didn't yield the desired results, Tomar tried a different approach — he penned an open letter. He began the letter by saying that many farmers' organizations welcomed the new laws, but a few of them have been misled. Tomar added that as the agriculture minister, it is his responsibility to debunk all misconceptions of farmers.
Belong to farming family, understand challenges: Tomar
"I am from a farming family. I have grown up understanding the challenges of farming. I have seen the distress of untimely rain, the happiness of timely monsoon. I have also seen the week-long wait to sell crops," he wrote.
Government reiterated MSPs will stay, farmers' land is safe
He also added that during the stressful times of coronavirus pandemic, the agriculture sector kept the wheels of the economy moving. Tomar then attempted to bust myths, highlighting that both MSPs and APMCs will stay. "Farmers' lands are not in danger. The agreement will be for crops, not for land," he added. He claimed the price of produce will be finalized in the agreement.
Farmers can end contracts, laws were not passed suddenly: Tomar
Under the new reforms, said Tomar, farmers will be able to end contracts whenever they want. About contract farming, he said it already exists. "Many states have laws regarding contract farming," he added. Implying that these laws were not passed without deliberation, Tomar said, "There have been consultations for two decades before the laws were passed."
Tomar came down heavily on those boycotting Indian products
Taking a harsher tone after listing the benefits of the laws, Tomar said some had called for a boycott of Indian products. "At a time when the country is moving forward with its resolve of Aatmanirbhar Bharat and vocal is going local, the intention of these people who have called for the boycott of India's products must be identified," he went on.
Citing examples, Tomar said Congress and AAP aren't 'well-wishers'
Targeting Congress, Tomar said the party turned a blind eye toward Swaminathan Committee report for eight long years. "How can the Congress be a well-wisher of farmers...Why have UPA government ministers, who used to write letters in favor of these reforms, done a U-turn now," he asked. He added Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) also promised freedom to farmers in its manifesto for Punjab.
Some are speaking the language of 1962, alleged minister
Falling short of naming any political party or organization, Tomar said some people weren't committed toward India even during the 1962 Indo-China war. "The ideology of these people, who are misleading the farmers by hiding behind curtains, was not with the country even during the war of '62. Today, these people are again speaking the language of '62," he claimed.
Those derailing supply chains, affecting soldiers, can't be farmers: Tomar
The minister also said that those who are disrupting the supply chain, effectively affecting soldiers guarding borders in chilly winters, can't be "farmers." People having vested interests are exploiting the innocence of farmers, he added, asserting that farmers should think what is their motive when they started the agitation and what has it turned into. He assured reforms will usher in a new phase.
The letter and PM Modi's appeal can be read here
कृषि मंत्री @nstomar जी ने किसान भाई-बहनों को पत्र लिखकर अपनी भावनाएं प्रकट की हैं, एक विनम्र संवाद करने का प्रयास किया है। सभी अन्नदाताओं से मेरा आग्रह है कि वे इसे जरूर पढ़ें। देशवासियों से भी आग्रह है कि वे इसे ज्यादा से ज्यादा लोगों तक पहुंचाएं। https://t.co/9B4d5pyUF1— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) December 17, 2020
Meanwhile, farmers continued protesting, are sticking to their demands
Hours after the letter was released, it didn't have much impact on the ground. The protest of farmers at the Singhu border entered its 23rd day today; their demands are still the same. Dayal Singh of Bharatiya Kisan Morcha said, "PM Modi should talk to the farmers and take back the farm laws. We will not give up our fight against these laws."
SC stepped in, allowed farmers to protest without blocking Delhi
On a related note, the Supreme Court heard a batch of pleas pertaining to the protest. Yesterday, a bench, led by Chief Justice of India SA Bobde, said farmers have all the right to protest, but they can't block Delhi. The top court also noted that the Centre's negotiation tactics aren't working and an independent committee could end the deadlock.