Ex-PM Manmohan Singh, Pawar favoured farm reforms but failed to implement them: Tomar

Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar, who was agriculture minister when the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government was in power “wanted to implement reforms in the farm sector, but could not due to external forces,” agriculture minister Narendra Singh Tomar was quoted as saying by news agency ANI.

“Many chief ministers had tried to implement the same farm laws that the Narendra Modi government had brought but could not implement them due to these external pressures,” Tomar said, according to the agency. He didn’t spell out what kind of external pressures stopped Singh and Pawar from implementing the reforms.

Tomar addressed a farmers’ delegation that pledged support to the three contentious farm laws. “Many commissions, ministers, chief ministers and governments have made an effort to work in the direction of farm sector reform. During the UPA regime Dr Manmohan Singh and Sharad Pawar wanted to implement these reforms. However, due to some pressure, they couldn’t implement these laws.”

The Union government will hold the sixth round of talks with protesting farm unions on Wednesday, a fresh attempt to resolve a politically challenging strike by farmers who have encircled the capital and want three recent pro-reform laws scrapped.

“Now our Prime Minister is Narendra Modi. His only mission is development. His only mission is the well-being of people. Any kind of force or pressure cannot pressurise our Prime Minister. When these forces fail, they get frustrated,” the minister said.

“Prime Minister Modi got 303 seats in Lok Sabha because of your blessings. Can PM Modi make such a decision that will adversely impact farmers and villagers,” the minister asked.

“The Prime Minister implemented demonetisation. There were elements who used to stand in queue and criticise the government. On GST {goods and services tax}, late Pranab Mukherjee praised the PM. Those forces again came into being and started saying bad things about Modiji that his days were numbered. People said the BJP would lose Gujarat, which is a state dominated by industrialists. In Surat, GST had the most impact and by this logic we should have lost, people voted for Modi on every seat and for GST,” Tomar said.

“We want to resolve this (the protests) by discussion. We respect our annadatas. We will become self-reliant only when farmers become self-reliant,” he added.

The government’s sixth round of talks with farm unions on Wednesday will decide the future course of the ongoing farmers’ agitation againstthe three recent farm-reform laws.

The laws essentially change the way India’s farmers do business by creating free markets, as opposed to a network of decades-old, government marketplaces, allowing traders to stockpile essential commodities for future sales and laying down a national framework for contract farming.

Together, the laws will allow big corporations and global supermarket chains to buy directly from farmers, bypassing decades-old regulations.

Farmers say the reforms would make them vulnerable to exploitation by big corporations and erode the government’s procurement system, whereby the government buys staples, such as wheat and rice, at guaranteed rates, known as a minimum support prices (MSP).

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