'Reforms aimed at increasing competition': Tomar

Agriculture minister Narendra Singh Tomar says the government is committed to reforming farm markets, and hopes that recalcitrant farm unions will eventually see the benefits of the three laws passed in September and join a dialogue with the administration.

Protesting farmers have rejected the amendments offered by the government to the three laws, saying they would settle for nothing less than the repeal of the Acts, but Tomar said in an interview with Hindustan Times that their essence remains. “The reforms will continue. Take for instance contract farming, it is aimed at ensuring a guaranteed price for their {farmers’} produce, security of their farming land, increase private investment, and addresses the issue of globally followed agricultural practices,” Tomar said.

Those who believe in status quo can’t make history: Narendra Singh Tomar

The government has done whatever it could to address the concerns of the farmers, Tomar said.

“We have made that attempt through the amendments. It is also our duty to do so. The reforms were aimed at increasing competition; so far only licensed traders could buy in the mandis, now everyone can. As competition increases, the farmers will get better remuneration. It is also natural that when the farmers are protesting and there are some concerns that they have, it is our duty to allay their fears and address their concerns.”

Tomar described as “baseless” the concern that corporate entities may grab farmers’ land. “So far in states such as Maharashtra, Punjab, Haryana, Gujarat and Karnataka contract farming is already being practised…no one’s land has been grabbed. In the act we have made a provision that the farmer can opt out of the contract, but the buyers cannot; they cannot renege on the contract and if they do, then they have to pay a penalty of 150%.”

Asked whether the BJP was worried about the electoral impact of the farm laws, Tomar replied: “It is imperative that when we go out to do something good there is a period of struggle and pain. Itihaas wohi banate hai jo itihaas se aage nikal jaate hai (those who move ahead of times make history) and those who believe in status quo cannot make history.”

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