Farm bills will not hurt farmers: Sitharaman

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Protesting against the contentious farm bills introduced in Parliament, the convoy of Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman was blocked by human rights activist Rajasekhar.

Raising anti-government slogans in protest against the farm bills, Rajasekhar demanded that the farm bills be withdrawn. Sensing trouble, the police arrested Rajasekhar. Protests were observed in Vijayawada by AP Rythu Sangham and other farmers’ bodies. They lashed out at the finance minister stating that she had no moral right to interact with farmers. The police took into custody CPI leaders Ramakrishna and Babu Rao. The Communist party leaders said the union government should have consulted the farmers before passing the farm bills. They said it is foolhardy on the part of the central government to first introduce the bills and later interact with the farmers.

Meanwhile, two weeks after farm bills were passed in Parliament during the Monsoon Session amid protests by the Opposition and farmers, Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Wednesday defended her government’s farm laws and claimed that they do not hurt farmers.

The Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill were passed in Parliament amid protests from the Opposition.

Talking to media persons in Vijayawada, the finance minister said farmers can sell their produce anywhere. “Farmers can sell their produce anywhere at a price suitable for them with profit. Now, farmers can decide where and whom they should sell and where,” she asserted, while stating that the farm bills were passed in Parliament with an attempt to revive the economy amid the coronavirus pandemic.

She said her visit to Andhra Pradesh was part of her nation-wide campaign to spread awareness about the farm bills. “These are not new reforms. These are of the Atma Nirbhar fiscal and monetary package,” she said.

Earlier, in the day, Sitharaman interacted with farmers in Jukkala Nekkalam village in Gannavaram and reviewed the minimum support price for their yield and the market conditions in view of the pandemic situation. The farmers apprised the finance minister that they were not getting MSP on their farm produce, mainly on paddy and sugarcane. The farmers put forth various demands, including Rs 2,000 MSP per quintal on paddy. The finance minister informed that the central government has introduced farm bills and many of their problems will be sorted out shortly.

“We have brought in the agricultural reforms only to benefit the farmers. The situation in South India is slightly different compared to the rest of the country. While on my way from Gannavaram airport, I interacted with curry leaf growers. Earlier, they were paying Rs 10,000 taxes. With the farm bills, they will not have to pay the taxes. The farmers do not have to pay different taxes to market yards. Our government has no plans to scrap the MSP (minimum support price) system. MSP is there, it was there and it shall continue to be there. So far, the MSP was only for paddy and wheat. Farmers have been selling their produce at depressed prices through the weakened mandi system. The farm bills will bring in accountability and transparency,” she said.

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