First time such arrogant govt in power, must withdraw farm laws unconditionally: Sonia

·4-min read

New Delhi, Jan 3 (PTI) The Congress on Sunday accused the Centre of being apathetic towards farmers protesting the new farm laws in harsh weather conditions, with party chief Sonia Gandhi saying that for the first time since independence such an 'arrogant' government has come to power that cannot see the sufferings of 'annadatas'.

She also demanded that the new farm laws be immediately withdrawn unconditionally.

In a scathing attack on the Centre over the farmers' protests, Gandhi said governments and their leaders who ignore public sentiments in a democracy cannot govern for long and it is now quite clear that the protesting farmers will not bow in the face of the Centre's policy of 'tire and pushover'.

'There is still time, the Modi government should leave the arrogance of power and immediately withdraw the three black laws unconditionally to end the agitation of the farmers who are dying in the cold and rain. This is Rajdharma and a true tribute to the farmers who have lost their lives,' she said in a statement in Hindi.

The Modi government should remember that democracy means protecting the interests of the people and the farmers-workers, the Congress president said.

In the wake of the government's 'apathy', so far, more than 50 farmers have lost their lives with some even taking the extreme step due to the government's neglect, she said.

'But neither the heartless Modi government relented nor the Prime Minister or any other minister uttered a word of consolation till today. I pay my respects to all the deceased farmer brothers and pray to God to give their families the strength to bear this sorrow,' Gandhi said.

Earlier, former Congress president Rahul Gandhi compared the ongoing farmers' protests against the three new Central agriculture-related laws with the Champaran agitation during the British rule and said every farmer-labourer part of the current movement is a 'satyagrahi' and they will take their rights back.

'The country is going to face a Champaran-like tragedy. British were 'company Bahadur' back then and now Modi-friends are 'company Bahadur',' he alleged in a tweet in Hindi.

'But, every farmer-labourer of the movement is a 'satyagrahi' who will take back their rights,' the former Congress chief said.

The Champaran Satyagraha of 1917 was led by Mahatma Gandhi and is considered a historic event in India's independence movement.

It was a farmer's uprising that took place in Champaran district of Bihar during the British colonial period when the farmers protested having to grow indigo with barely any payment for it.

In another tweet, Rahul Gandhi alleged that the Modi government which is 'unable to give the legal guarantee of minimum support price (MSP) to farmers' is giving 'fixed price to its industrialist friends to run foodgrain godowns'.

Government Mandis are either being closed down or foodgrains are not being purchased, he alleged.

'Why the lack of attention to farmers and sympathy for suit-boot friends,' Rahul Gandhi said in the tweet in Hindi.

Congress' chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala also hit out at the government over the farmers' plight, saying that at the Tikri border amid nearly zero degree temperature and torrential rains, farmers were forced to protest in a semi-naked state.

'When will those in power feel ashamed, who have crossed the limits of autocracy by calling this movement of the farmers 'event',' he said in a tweet in Hindi.

At a press briefing, Congress spokesperson Gourav Vallabh urged the government to show empathy towards protesting farmers, repeal the three laws and provide a legal guarantee of MSP.

He said the government agreeing to make amendments to the farm laws showed that there was a problem in them and they should be repealed.

Vallabh alleged that the government was deliberately delaying talks over the new farm laws, which he demanded should be repealed and new ones brought in after thorough consultation with the agriculturists and following proper parliamentary procedure.

Hitting out at the government for holding talks with farmers with intervals of days and not heeding to Chhattisgarh's repeated requests for procurement, the Congress leader said, 'The government is in New Year, will talk to farmers on January 4 because 'we remain in New Year hangover on January 1, 2 and 3'.' The Congress has been seeking the repeal of the three new farm laws, alleging that they will ruin farming and the farmers. The Congress is also supporting the farmers' agitation against the legislations.

After the sixth round of formal negotiations on Wednesday, the government and farm unions reached some common ground to resolve protesting farmers' concerns over rise in power tariff and penalties for stubble burning, but the two sides remained deadlocked over the main contentious issues of the repeal of the new farm laws and a legal guarantee for MSP.

Braving the cold, thousands of farmers, mainly from Punjab and Haryana, are protesting at various borders of the national capital for more than a month against these laws.

The government has presented these laws as major agriculture sector reforms aimed at helping farmers and increasing their income, but the protesting unions fear that the new legislations will leave them at the mercy of big corporates by weakening the MSP and mandi systems. PTI ASK CK