While lakhs of farmers are now braving freezing winds, and temperatures as low as four degree Celsius, marking the 20th day of their ongoing peaceful protest at Delhi borders, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said farmers are “being misled about the agriculture reforms”. The PM was speaking in Kutch, Gujarat and emphasised that the “agriculture reforms that have taken place is exactly what farmer bodies and even opposition parties have been asking over the years.” He reiterated that the Government of India “is always committed to farmer welfare” and “will keep assuring the farmers, addressing their concerns.” He added that, “one has to keep up with the changing times and embrace global best practices”. The PM was speaking at an event in his home state Gujarat, where he unveiled various projects including a desalination plant, a hybrid renewable energy park, and a fully automated milk processing and packing plant.
According to an official statement, the Prime Minister lauded the farmers in Kutch who “are now exporting fruits abroad,” adding that this indicated the “innovative zeal” of these farmers. The PM said, “Agriculture, dairy and fisheries sectors have prospered in Gujarat over the last two decades due to minimum interference from the Government. What Gujarat did was to empower farmers and cooperatives.”
The Prime Minister laid the foundation stone for the Renewable Energy Park in Kharera, Desalination plant in Mandvi and the Automatic plant at Sarhad Dehri in Anjar. He said “the benefit of these projects would accrue to the tribals, farmers, cattle ranchers and common people of the region.” He also “lauded the Gujarat Government for introducing many farmer friendly schemes in the last twenty years.”
However, the PM is yet to directly address, even via video conferencing the lakhs of farmers who are currently protesting against Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020, the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020, and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020 since November 26. The farmers have been firm on their demand from the government to repeal the laws. They have so far rejected all offers of amendments to the law made by the Union government. The Centre has so far been firm that it will not repeal the laws.
According to a report in Indian Express, around 245 Sikh farmers from Punjab and Haryana who own land in Kutch, Gujarat have also been “fighting a legal battle for 10 years after the state government froze the records of their land”. The government stated that these farmers “cannot own agricultural land in Gujarat since they are not native of the state,” reported IE. The report quoted Lasman Singh Brar, one of the leaders of Sikh farmers in Kutch fighting this case as saying, “an appeal filed by the Gujarat government against the Gujarat High Court verdict ordering de-freezing of our land records has been awaiting judgement.”
The last time the PM spoke on the issue was on November 30, on Gurupurab, Guru Nanak Dev’s birth celebrations, when he was in Uttar Pradesh to inaugurate a widening project of the Varanasi-Prayagraj section of NH-19, and had celebrated ‘dev deepawali’ at Varanasi, his Lok Sabha constituency. He had said his “intentions as pure as Gangajal” and even started his address at Ganga ghats with the Sikh chant of ‘jo bole so nihal’ extended his greetings on the occasion. He had said that the “new agricultural reforms have given farmers new options and new legal protection,” adding that the criticism seen now “is based on mere apprehensions” and that “confusion is being spread in society. He had accused the Opposition of spreading “lies”.
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