Parliament proceedings | ₹8 crore spent on farm laws campaign, Agriculture Minister tells Rajya Sabha

Narendra Singh Tomar makes no mention of the 18-month suspension proposal.

The Centre has spent almost ₹8 crore on a publicity campaign for three new farm reform laws, including myth busters, Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar told the Rajya Sabha in a written response to a question on Friday.

In response to a question about the Centre’s time bound proposal to end farm protests, Mr. Tomar made no mention of the proposal given to unions for suspension of implementation of the laws for a year and a half. Instead, he only mentioned the government’s push for a clause-wise discussion of the laws versus the unions’ demand for repeal.

The query from Jharna Das Baidya of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) asked for “the details of time-bound proposal of Government to overcome the struggle of farmers to get their lives back on track”.

Mr. Tomar’s response mentioned the 11 rounds of talks between the Centre and farm unions. “During various rounds of negotiations, Government had been requesting the agitating farmers’ unions to discuss the Farm laws clause by clause in order to resolve their concerns on the clauses bothering them,” he said. “However, farmers’ unions never agreed to discuss the farm laws, excepting for demanding their repeal.”

There was no mention of the 18-month suspension proposal, which he had earlier described as the Centre’s “best offer” made during the 10th round of talks, and rejected by the unions during the 11th and final round on January 22, after which talks broke down.

Ms. Baidya also asked for “details of rehabilitation and support extended during the last two months to the families and children of farmers who died during this ongoing protest”, to which Mr. Tomar responded that his Ministry “has no record”. Farm unions claim more than 200 protesters have died of various causes during the agitation.

In response to a query on the September 2020 to January 2021 expenditure on a “Myth-busting” publicity campaign, Mr. Tomar said that more than ₹7.25 crore was spent on advertisements in Hindi, English and regional language newspapers, plus ₹1.5 lakh to develop creatives for these print ads. Another ₹68 lakh was spent to produce five promotional and educational films on the farm laws, for use in electronic media, social media and webinars.

Although no separate expenses were mentioned, he said the government had also created awareness on social media platforms, while India’s embassies and missions had shared the Centre’s position on the laws in their outreach to the Indian diaspora.

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