Govt under misconception that only Punjab, Hry farmers in battle against agri laws: Soren

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NEW DELHI, Jan 21 (PTI): Raising questions over the Centre’s offer to suspend the farm laws instead of repealing them, Jharkhand chief minister Hemant Soren on Thursday said the government is under a ‘misconception’ that only the farmers of Punjab and Haryana are in this ‘battle’ and asserted that tillers across the country want the scrapping of the ‘repressive’ legislations.

He said that if the farmers’ agitation is not dealt with empathetically by the government, it will soon spread to different parts of the country.

In an interview with PTI, Soren also said the impasse between the government and the farmers over the new agri laws was tarnishing India’s image at international forums.

After making the farmers suffer on the streets for months, the central government has suggested to suspend the three contentious farm laws for one and half years instead of repealing them completely, the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) executive president said.

“The government is under the wrong impression that only the farmers from Punjab and Haryana are in this battle. They are living with a big misconception. Farmers across the country, be it Himachal Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Northeast or any other place, have the same sentiment,” Soren said.

“They (farmers) are all connected to the ground. We have seen similar protests last year on NRC-CAA, which started at the university level but later engulfed the whole country,” he said.

If farmers feel so strongly why doesn’t the government withdraw the laws, asked Soren and alleged that the Centre was showing a “dictatorial attitude”.

The farm agitation if not empathetically dealt with and resolved by the Centre, will soon spread to different parts of the country, he asserted.

“The new farm laws are repressive. They legitimise black marketing and hoarding. I can’t support these laws. How is it possible that the highest offices of the central government can’t figure out a working solution to the demands being put by the protesting farmer bodies in almost two months?” Soren said.

Asked if the Jharkhand government will pass a legislation to nullify the farm laws as done by some states ruled by the Congress, he said his government is closely observing the developments and will wait to see the final decision of the Centre in this regard.

“Farmers feed the people of the country; they are only demanding a fixed Minimum Support Price (MSP) for their crops. If necessary, we will constitute a high-level committee to look into the matter and recommend a concrete resolution,” he said.

Soren highlighted that his government recently approved a farm loan waiver scheme benefiting over 8 lakh farmers with an initial budget of Rs 2,000 crore and also gave the nod for a crop insurance scheme for farmers.

“Our government has also increased the MSP for paddy from Rs 1,868 to Rs 2,050 per quintal,” the Jharkhand chief minister said.

Soren’s remarks come a day after the government proposed to suspend the three contentious farm laws for 1-1.5 years and set up a joint committee to find an amicable solution in the interest of the farming community.

During the tenth round of negotiations between three central ministers and protesting farmer unions, the two sides decided to meet again on Friday after the union leaders hold their own internal consultations on Thursday to decide on the government’s new proposal.

Thousands of farmers, mostly from Haryana and Punjab, have been protesting at several border points of Delhi since November 28 last year, demanding a repeal of the three laws and a legal guarantee to the MSP system for their crops.

Enacted in September last year, the three laws have been projected by the Centre as major reforms in the agriculture sector that will remove middlemen and allow farmers to sell their produce anywhere in the country.

However, the protesting farmers have expressed their apprehension that the new laws would pave the way for eliminating the safety cushion of the MSP and do away with the “mandi” (wholesale market) system, leaving them at the mercy of big corporates.

Soren, who last month completed one year in office, said his government’s priority has been the holistic development of the state to ensure that no section is left behind.

“Immediately after the swearing-in, we approved the decision to withdraw all cases relating to the Pathalgadi movement. In November 2020, the state assembly passed a unanimous resolution recommending the central government for including Sarna adivasi as a separate religion code in Census, 2021,” he said highlighting some of the achievements of his government.

“During the pandemic, we learnt how to deal with a widespread infectious disease and at the same time, gained the trust of the citizens by bringing back  stranded workers, running community kitchens, connecting them to MNREGA and other livelihood programmes,” Soren said.

Soren said his government is consistently working to boost the state’s economy as well as livelihoods of people in the wake of the lockdown impact.

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