Rahul attacks govt in LS over farm laws; Rajnath says govt ready to talk openly and amend them, if needed

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New Delhi, Feb 11 (PTI) Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Thursday alleged that the three contentious farm laws will allow industrialists to buy unlimited quantities of foodgrains and 'break the spine of farmers' even as Union defence Minister Rajnath Singh said the government is ready to talk openly on these laws and amend them, if need.

A day after Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Lok Sabha staunchly defended the newly enacted agri laws and supported private enterprises and greater investment in agriculture sector, Gandhi stepped up the attack, alleging that these laws will destroy India's food security system and will hurt the rural economy.

'The intent of the three laws is to allow industrialists to buy unlimited quantities of foodgrains and hoard them as much as they want,' Gandhi said in Lok Sabha.

Asserting that the laws were enacted to ensure the right price to the farmers for their produce and help them sell their produce anywhere in the country, Singh said,'an atmosphere of confusion has been created' and it is being claimed that the wholesale market will no longer exist, the MSP system will come to an end and the land of the farmers would be mortgaged.

The farmers were 'misled' and these confusions were created by people with 'vested interests', Singh said while participating at an online event organised by the Madhya Pradesh government.

Bihar Chief Minister and JD(U) leader Nitish Kumar also backed the laws, saying these legislations are in the interest of farmers and not against them.

Speaking to reporters after meeting Modi, Kumar said his party is with the government on the issue and that the Centre has opted for the right path by holding talks with the farmer unions agitating against the three laws.

'Hopefully, the issue will be resolved soon,' the BJP ally said.

Thousands of farmers are protesting on various Delhi borders for more than two months demanding a complete repeal of the three laws, which they find pro-corporate and against the existing mandi and MSP procurement systems. However, the government has rejected these apprehensions as baseless, though at least 11 rounds of talks between the two sides have failed to end the stalemate.

Urging the Centre not to make the agri laws a 'prestige issue', senior Congress leader Sachin Pilot asserted that the government must let go of its 'stubbornness' to immediately repeal the legislations, and said that when the BJP could not convince its allies like the Akali Dal and the RLP on the issue, how can it expect the farmers to accept the laws.

A day ahead of former Rahul Gandhi's visit to Rajasthan to raise the voice of the farmers against the farm laws, he said the Centre should withdraw the laws and after thorough consultation with farmers and states, come up with a new set of legislations which the tillers would themselves want and is not something that is forced upon them.

In an interview to PTI, Pilot slammed the BJP for stating that the Congress had made a 'U-turn' on the farm laws, saying it was the BJP which was prone to making 'U-turns', while his party was consistent on all issues.

While the Congress supported agri reforms, it did not back laws which are 'contrary to the interest of the farmers', the former Rajasthan deputy chief minister said.

'First of all, they (BJP) made a U-turn on Aadhaar, then on GST, MGNREGA, FDI and so many issues. The Congress said we want to get new investments (in the agri sector) and technological inputs, want more 'mandis', liberalise the system, but never said we will make laws contrary to the interest of the farmers,' he said.

Meanwhile, participating in the discussion on the Budget for 2021-21 in Rajya Sabha, Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) leader Naresh Gujral said the farmers are on the street because they feel the market will be snatched from them.

Farmers protesting at the borders of the national capital for over two months will return home if the government was to include a guarantee through a law for purchase of their crops at an administered price or MSP, he said.

SAD, the oldest partner of BJP, had quit the NDA government over the three contentious farm reform laws. PTI JTR RAM KR NAB ACB MPB ANZ PYK PYK