At a time when the contentious farm Bills have created a political sandstorm in the country, as many as 32 ex-bureaucrats, including former finance, banking and defence secretaries, have backed the bills, terming their passage in the Parliament as a “watershed moment”.
“The farm Bills passed by the Parliament is a watershed moment in the liberation of India’s farming community from the shackles of the exploitative practices that slow pedalled their progress,” said a statement issued by the bureaucrats that was informally released by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
The statement went on to call the farm Bills a “definite gamechanger in the lives of Indian farmers” and termed the legislation as “far-sighted”.
“Major impediments which retarded the seamless growth of the farming fraternity of India are given the go by the passage of these monumental acts,” said the statemnet.
Those backing the farm Bills included former Finance Secretary S. Narayan, former Banking Secretary D.K. Mittal, former Defence Secretary G. Mohan Kumar and former Petroleum Secretary Saurav Chandra, among others.
Putting forward a five-point argument, which included MSP and freedom to sell farm produce, the former bureaucrats termed the agitation by the farmers as “objectionable“.
The statement came at a time when sveral political parties, including the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), Congress, DMK, Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and Trinamool Congress, among others, are vehemently protesting the bills.
“Despite categorical assurance from the Union Agriculture Minister that the minimum support price (MSP) mechanism shall remain as before, it is objectionable to incite the farmers and create disaffection in their minds by wrongly suggesting that their interests are being bartered in favour of multinational concerns,” the statement said.
The bureaucrats claimed that the legislations will instead free the farmers of their “sufferings” which are caused by “inadequate local marketing facilities, leading to their exploitation by ‘middlemen’.
“The farmers have nothing to lose if India is developed as one market and private parties purchase their products,” the bureaucrats said.
Calling the legislations “historic”, the bureaucrats expressed their apprehension about a pan-India “disinformation” campaign over the issue.
Citing that there have been “recent instances of untruths”, the former bureaucrats said, “The general public has every reason to suspect attempts by well-known vested interests to destabilise the country and create disaffection among the minorities, students and farmers.”
“We strongly support the well-meaning efforts of the government in bringing succor to the farming community which has fed the nation over the years, converting India from a food deficit to a food surplus economy,” they said.
The three farm Bills passed by the Parliament are the Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020; The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, 2020; and Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill, 2020.