(Eds: Updates with more quotes) Chennai, Dec 25 (PTI) Union Minister Prakash Javadekar on Friday said 'some' farmers protesting against the recently enacted Central laws were misguided by their 'political masters' and were painting a picture as if ryots across the country were with them.
He also lashed out at Congress leader Rahul Gandhi for his criticism of the farm laws and said 'he appears (in public) once in a fortnight' and challenged him for an open debate on the issue.
The Minister for Environment and Information slammed the opposition parties, saying they were 'bankrupt' on the issue of farm laws, against which thousands of farmers, especially from Punjab and Haryana, are protesting at the borders of Delhi for nearly a month.
Noting that NCP leader Sharad Pawar as the Agriculture Minister during the UPA regime wrote to states on the subject, he wondered how could the laws enacted by the NDA government for the whole nation become 'bad' now.
The refrain against the new farm laws by the opposition parties is 'hoax' and the 'opposition is bankrupt on this issue,' he told reporters.
Addressing farmers at a meeting at nearby Maraimalai Nagar organised by the Tamil Nadu unit of the BJP, Javadekar asserted ryots in the country were happy with the farm laws and other pro-farmer initiatives such as the PM Kisan Samman Nidhi scheme.
He claimed the minimum support price (MSP) received by Punjab farmers during the NDA rule was more than double of the amount they got in the previous UPA regime.
'The Punjab farmers have received every year more than double the amount that they got as MSP during the Congress-led UPA rule. Their income has already doubled and they are experiencing it. Still, they are agitating as they are being misguided,' the minister said.
The farmers' protest against the farm laws has become an intense topic for debate across India because 'some farmers and their political masters have launched their agitation around Delhi, showing as if it is an all-India phenomenon and in the interest of entire farmers of the country.
'But farmers everywhere are happy with the new laws and the farmers' welfare schemes will continue,' the minister said.
He assured that the contentious MSP and Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC) will continue and underlined that the Modi government 'will solidly' stand behind the farmers and the common man.
During their ten-year rule, the Congress and the DMK had only extended Rs 53,000 crore as one-time loan waiver to farmers and had not even implemented the MS Swaminathan Committee report on MSP, he alleged.
'This amount (of Rs 53,000 crore) was given to the banks and not to the farmers. But now Prime Minister Modiji is depositing Rs 2,000 directly in the bank accounts of the farmers. Modiji has already paid Rs 1.20 lakh crore directly to the bank accounts of the ryots,' Javadekar said.
This sum also included the digital deposits of Rs 18,000 crore to nine crore farmers by the Prime Minister on Friday, under the PM-KISAN scheme, the minister who earlier released a book 'Modi Government that protects farmers wellbeing,' said.
The first book was presented by BJP state president L Murugan.
The Minister said for about 40 years, remunerative prices were the 'real demand' of the farmers.
When a committee led by renowned farm scientist M S Swaminathan recommended cost plus 50 per cent to address it, the UPA regime did not accept it but Prime Minister Narendra Modi agreed to the proposal when the BJP came to power.
As a result, 'the Minimum Support Price has risen phenomenally,' he said adding for commodities that get MSP, the farmers income 'doubled.' MSP and APMCs would continue to be on and at the same time farmers should have a right to sell where they get more prices and this aspect necessitated the new farm laws which was a basic reform and in tune with demands of farmers after discussion over a span of 20 years.
Referring to welfare schemes like the PM Kisan, and initiatives and growth in the agriculture and allied sectors, he said, 'farmer is getting more income now and for sure by 2022 he will have his income doubled.' Training his guns against Rahul Gandhi, Javadekar said, the Congress leader 'has also jumped into this and he comes rarely, he appears once in a fortnight...he suddenly said you have to withdraw the laws.
'I am giving him open challenge for a debate, whether the laws are good, (are) in the interest of the farmers or not. I will challenge Rahul Gandhi and the DMK for a debate,' Javadekar said.
Punjab farmers were 'deliberately misguided' that their MSP will go away after these laws, following which they have been protesting near Delhi for a month now, he said.
But their counterparts from Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka, Telangana, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh among others were not agitating since they were not being misguided.
'There is no place for any misunderstanding or misgiving...we solidly stand behind farmers, behind the common man of the country,' the Minister said. PTI JSP VGN SA VS VS