India’s Modi sticks to ‘reform’ rhetoric over Farm bill despite mounting protest

India’s Modi sticks to ‘reform’ rhetoric over Farm bill despite mounting protest

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi still maintains the ‘reform’ rhetoric over the Farm bills, despite protests dismissing the claim for the fifth day straight.
  • Thousands of farmers from around India’s national capital of Delhi have been protesting for the fifth day over three new laws passed by the Narendra Modi-led government.
  • Opposition and anti-Farm bill proponents argue the government will gradually abolish the regulated wholesale markets where farmers sell their produce in return for a fixed price.
  • “Confusion is spread about what has not happened yet, which will never happen. The same is happening in the case of historical agricultural reforms,” Modi said about the Farm Bill 2020, pointing to the opposition.
  • Farming contributes 15% of the nation’s $2.1 trillion economies.

KOLKATA (India) — As protests mount amongst Indian farmers seeking to overturn a controversial bill, the Indian Prime Minister reiterated the ‘reform’ rhetoric on Monday, that the protest has been dismissing for the fifth day straight.

Thousands of farmers from around India’s national capital of Delhi have been protesting for the fifth day over three new laws passed by the Narendra Modi-led government.

Thousands from the states of Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, and Punjab have gathered in the outskirts of New Delhi and have staged protests, ousting water cannon and tear gas from the police.

The bill, broadly termed as Farm bill, promises to “empower farmers for engaging with processors, wholesalers, aggregators, wholesalers, large retailers, exporters, etc., on a level playing field.”

But in real-life, it essentially translates to more buyers other than the government-regulated wholesale markets, to whom the nation’s farmers could sell their produce, including huge multinational corporates like Walmart.

But opposition and anti-Farm bill proponents argue the government will gradually abolish the regulated wholesale markets where farmers sell their produce in return for a fixed price for staples like rice and wheat.

If their fears manifest, it means the nation’s small farmers would be left at the mercy of the wealthy agri-corps. India’s agrarian economy employs over half of its 1.3 billion population in the sector.

Farming contributes 15% of the nation’s $2.1 trillion economy.

Meanwhile, Modi has been insisting that the farm bill seeks to revolutionize India’s agricultural scene and has called on the farmers to refrain from falling for what he says are misinterpretations by the opposition.

“The new agricultural laws have been brought in for benefit of the farmers. We will see and experience the benefits of these new laws in the coming days,” Modi said at an address to the public from his political constituency in Varanasi.

“Earlier, if someone did not like any decision of the government, then it was opposed. But fears have been formed on the basis of protest for some time. Confusion is spread about what has not happened yet, which will never happen. The same is happening in the case of historical agricultural reforms,” Modi said.

The PM was at the Northern Indian city to attend a flurry of events, including inaugurating a highway, visiting the revered Kashi temple among others.

Earlier on Monday, the protesting farmers dismissed the federal government’s calls to pacify the situation after Union Home Minister Amit Shah assured the government will be all ears to the demands but on a condition – the farmers must shift their protest to a designated venue.

Amit Shah’s call came after the protesting farmers refused to lessen their protest that the nation is seeing in historic numbers after a long time. They have threatened to blockade the five major entry points to New Delhi.

Entry to Delhi from the neighboring state of Haryana, which is also an agricultural hub, has been blocked, with Delhi police urging commuters to take alternative routes, media reports confirm.

An umbrella group that represents the farmers and the unions rejected Amit Shah’s calls to shift the protest venue saying: “The government, if serious about addressing the demands of farmers, should stop laying down any conditions and should come straight out with the solution it is offering.”

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