Hooda says Cong. is not against reforms but changes should be made only after consulting all stakeholders
The government should convene a special session of Parliament to repeal the farm laws and discuss agricultural reforms afresh, the Congress said on Tuesday.
Former Congress chief Rahul Gandhi will be part of the Opposition delegation that will meet President Ram Nath Kovind on Wednesday to seek his intervention in directing the government to repeal the laws.
Other leaders in the delegation would include Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) president Sharad Pawar, Sitaram Yechury (CPI-M), D. Raja (CPI) and T.K.S. Elangovan (DMK) — all the parties that had jointly backed the call for Tuesday’s ‘Bharat bandh’ by farmers’ unions.
Addressing a press conference at the party headquarters, former Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda said the Congress was not against agricultural reforms but changes to the agricultural sector should be made only after consulting all stakeholders.
He alleged that the government pushed through current laws without any consultation with the farmers amidst the COVID-19 pandemic and they did not reflect the reforms that the sector needed.
Justifying the call given by the farmers, Mr. Hooda said the Minimum Support Price (MSP) mechanism needed to be incorporated in the law to protect the interests of farmers.
“We are not against reforms but the current laws must be repealed and a fresh reform process initiated after discussion and consultations with all stakeholders,” he added.
Mr. Hooda, who had chaired a working group of Chief Ministers during the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance regime, questioned why the government did not agree to the Opposition demand of bringing another law to punish those buying farm produce below the MSP.
The Opposition and the government have been sparring over agri laws, with Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad pointing out that Mr. Pawar — UPA’s Agriculture Minister — and the Congress’s 2019 manifesto talked about amending the Agriculture Produce Marketing Committee (APMC) Act.
Mr. Hooda charged the BJP with ‘misrepresenting’ facts and said the UPA had initiated the process of consulting stakeholders.
“We promised to take the mandis near the farmers and in Haryana we did that. We have set up purchase centres at every 10 km or so. In my own village where there is a population of 10,000, there is an APMC purchase centre,” he said.
Mr. Hooda alleged that the BJP-led Haryana government had “mishandled” the farmers’ agitation and lost the confidence of people and the Assembly.
“I have written to the Governor demanding the immediate convening of the Haryana Assembly as the BJP government has insulted farmers,” he said.