NEW DELHI: Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh on Saturday asked the centre to allow the states to legislate in matters relating to agriculture which is a state subject. He also alleged that the centre’s three farm laws have caused disruptions in the agriculture sector in the state. He was speaking in the sixth Governing Council virtual meeting of Niti Aayog.
Here are the day’s key developments:
1. Urging the centre to respect the ‘annadaata’ (the farmer), Amarinder Singh reiterated his government’s stand that agriculture is a state subject and it should be left to be legislated upon by states in the true spirit of “cooperative federalism” enshrined in the Constitution. In his pre-recorded address for the sixth Governing Council virtual meeting of Niti Aayog, the Congress leader pointed out that the state has already passed amendments to the central legislations. Singh, who could not attend the meeting as he was unwell, also asserted in his speech that any reform in a sector affecting almost 60 per cent of the country’s workforce must be brought only through a process of extensive consultation with all the stakeholders, and Punjab being at the forefront of ensuring food security for the nation, should be made a part of the process. He also raised the farmers’ apprehension that the Minimum Support Price (MSP)-based procurement through Food Corporation of India (or agencies on its behalf) may be discontinued in view of the Shanta Kumar Committee Report of 2015. The CM also stressed the need for the government of India to decisively dispel any such impression “to instil proper confidence in the farmers of the state”. Singh used the forum to once again reiterate the state government’s demand for a bonus of Rs 100 per quintal of paddy procured as straw management compensation.
2. Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan has told Prime Minister Narendra Modi that the agricultural scenario of the state has been transformed through floriculture, horticulture and bee- farming, a government official said. Speaking during the virtual meeting of the NITI Aayog being chaired by Modi, Chouhan also said that alternatives would be made available to farmers in the state to enable them to sell their agriculture produce. He hailed the Union budget 2021-22 saying that it aims to make the country self-reliant, and added that Madhya Pradesh will also lay emphasis on self-reliance in its budget. Chouhan said that efforts would be made in the state budget to make optimum use of the allocations made in the Union budget, the official said. The budget session of Madhya Pradesh Assembly is scheduled to begin next week. During the meeting, Chouhan said that besides boosting the food grain production in MP, the state has made strides in floriculture, horticulture and bee-farming, which has transformed the agriculture sector in the state. The chief minister also told the PM that steps have been taken to procure the agriculture produce from farmers at the MSP.
3. The Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM), an umbrella body of protesting farmer unions, said that farmers as well as ordinary citizens were incurring huge losses due to the rising fuel prices. It said that the increased fuel prices are also resulting in farmers getting lower net MSP for their produce. “The central government gives lower MSP by wrong calculations of inputs and now due to rising fuel prices, input costs have also increased,” the farmers body claimed in a statement. “Along with farmers, ordinary citizens of the country will also suffer huge losses due to the rising prices of petrol, diesel and gas. People are protesting all over the country against rising prices,” it added. Fuel prices have been rising over the past few weeks with petrol price touching an all-time high of Rs 97 per litre in Mumbai on Saturday, while diesel rate crossed Rs 88-mark. The SKM also alleged that even though police arrested several farmers during their February 18 ‘rail roko’ programme across the country and filed “false cases” against them, the “movement will continue”.
4. Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal will host protesting farmer leaders at a lunch at the Vidhan Sabha in the national capital on Sunday afternoon where he will discuss with them the three contentious central agricultural laws and other related issues, government sources said. However, the government as well as AAP leaders were tight-lipped about the names of the union leaders invited for the meeting. Farmer leader Darshan Pal said they had not received any invitation from the Delhi government till Saturday evening. A senior AAP leader said, “Discussions will be held at the meeting on various concerns of farmers over the agri laws and also the various aspects of the laws and its impact.”
5. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said that efforts should be made to produce agriculture items like edible oil and reduce their imports. “This can be done by guiding farmers,” he said, adding the money being spend on imports can go to the accounts of farmers. Addressing the Governing Council meeting of Niti Aayog, the Prime Minister also underlined the need for reducing compliance burden on people and asked the states to form committees to reduce regulations which are no longer relevant in the wake of technology. He made a strong case for repealing archaic laws and making it easier to do business in India stating that the centre and states need to work closely to boost economic growth. The private sector should be given full opportunity to become a part of government’s Aatmanirbhar Bharat programme, he said and added that the centre and the states should work together for the nation’s progress.
6. Likening Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the character of an arrogant king (ahankari raja) from stories of yore, Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra said he is unable to understand that the ‘jawan’ who has kept the country safe is also the son of a farmer. Addressing a “kisan mahapanchayat” in Muzaffarnagar, the Congress leader attacked the prime minister on a range of issues, including the price of diesel, and alleged that he did not listen to farmers demanding a rollback of the agri laws because his politics were aimed only at himself and his billionaire friends. She said the arrogant king from old stories would confine himself to his palace as his rule expanded. “People started feeling afraid of telling the truth in front of him. It seems our prime minister has also become an arrogant king of that type.” Launching a scathing attack against the prime minister, Priyanka Gandhi said government ‘mandis’ and the MSP system would come to an end with the new farm laws. “Your rights will also end. The way in which he has sold the entire country to his two-three friends, in the same way he wants to sell you, your land, and earnings to his billionaire friends,” she alleged.
7. Haryana BKU chief Gurnam Singh Chaduni said food prices will increase like that of fuel if the centre’s farm laws are implemented in the country. Describing the farmers’ agitation against the centre’s laws as a “dharma yudh”, he exhorted all sections of society to be part of the movement. Chaduni was among several farmer leaders who addressed the first “kisan mahapanchayat” held in Chandigarh. The event was orgainsed by the Naujwan Kisan Ekta. “We call it (agitation) “dharma yudh”. If agri-business laws are implemented, then the country’s foodgrain will go into the godowns of a few people. Then the food prices will go up the way petrol prices are rising now,” said Chaduni, seeking to assert the “adverse” impact of the legislations.
8. The centre has procured 651.07 lakh tonnes of paddy worth nearly Rs 1.23 lakh crore, so far in this kharif marketing season at MSP amid farmers’ protest at Delhi-borders against three new farm laws. The kharif marketing season starts from October. Paddy is mainly grown in Kharif (summer sown) season. “In the ongoing Kharif Marketing Season (KMS) 2020-21, the government continues to procure kharif 2020-21 crops at MSP from farmers as per existing MSP schemes, as was done in previous seasons,” the food ministry said in a statement. The centre has procured 651.07 lakh tonnes of paddy till February 19, up 15.91 per cent from 561.67 lakh tonnes in the corresponding period of the previous season. “About 93.93 lakh farmers have already benefited from the ongoing KMS procurement operations with MSP value of Rs 1,22,922.58 crore,” the ministry said. Out of the total purchase of 651.07 LMT, Punjab alone has contributed 202.82 LMT which is 31.15 per cent of total procurement.
9. If highlighting farmers’ protest globally is sedition, then she is “better in jail”, activist Disha Ravi told a Delhi court which reserved for February 23 its order on her bail plea in the toolkit case after police alleged that she was part of a plan to instigate violence in India and had deleted “evidence” like emails. Additional sessions judge Dharmender Rana posed some scathing questions to the probe agency during the hearing on Ravi’s plea, asking it if it was only acting on “surmises, inferences, and conjectures” and questioned how the toolkit was connected to the violence during the farmers’ march. “…Unless I satisfy my conscience, I don’t move ahead,” the judge said. Additional Solicitor General SV Raju, appearing for the Delhi Police, told the court that the hyperlinks in the toolkit connected people to Khalistani websites that propagate hatred towards India. “This was not just a toolkit. The real plan was to defame India and create unrest here,” he said. Ravi’s counsel, however, claimed there is no evidence linking the toolkit to the violence during the farmers’ march on January 26. He also questioned the contents of the FIR. “We all have different opinions. You may have a problem with farmers’ protest, I may not. If highlighting protest globally is sedition, I (Ravi) am better in jail. I (defence counsel) also support farmers. But if that’s an offence, let’s all go to jail,” defence counsel Sidharth Agarwal said.
10. The Delhi Police has released the photographs of 20 people who were allegedly involved in the violence that broke out at the Red Fort on Republic Day during the farmers’ tractor parade, officials said. The police said they are scanning the videos and releasing the pictures of people from them. “We have released the pictures and the process of identification (of the people) has been started,” a senior police officer said. Earlier, police had released 200 photographs of people in connection with the Red Fort violence. Thousands of protesters had clashed with the police during the tractor parade called by farmer unions on January 26 to highlight their demand for repeal of the Centre’s three farm laws.
(With agency inputs)