Union Minister Piyush Goyal on Saturday trained his guns on what he termed as 'hidden agendas' of 'Leftists and Maoists' who he suspected to have infiltrated the farmers' agitation against the central government's new agricultural legislations.
This comes as the farmers' protest against new farm laws entered its 17th day. Goyal, the Minister for Railways, Commerce and Industry and Food and Consumers Affairs, was speaking on Saturday at FICCI's annual meeting.
He said the agitation no longer remains a farmers' movement as it has been "infiltrated by Leftist and Maoist elements" demanding the release of those put behind bars for "anti-national activities".
This, Goyal said, was clearly to derail agriculture reforms brought by the government.
The Union Minister, however, did not say if the government had or is planning to take any action against any person belonging to banned outfits seen at the protests.
"We now realise that the so-called farmer agitation hardly remains a farmers' agitation. It has almost got infiltrated by Leftist and Maoist elements, a flavour of which we saw over the last two days when there were extraneous demands to release people who have been put behind bars for anti-national (and) who have been put behind bars for illegal activities," Goyal said.
"The demands being raised on a farmers' platform to release so-called intellectuals and poets clearly demonstrate that the effort to derail farm law improvements is probably in the hands of certain elements who are not good for India", he said.
"I would urge all well-meaning business leaders and all well-meaning intellectuals who are involved with Ficci, who are on this webcast, to talk about the benefits of these farm laws, to understand the law. Should you have any apprehension, please talk to us," Goyal said.
The minister assured that these laws are for the benefit of nearly 100 million farmers across the country.
He said this is a government that has been committed to farmer welfare, which has almost doubled procurement under minimum support price or MSP, which is "wrongly sought to be portrayed as being under danger".
"This is a government that has ensured that farmers get 50% over their cost of production. This is a government that has increased the agricultural budget nearly six times, never before increased to today nearly USD 20 billion, Rs 1.34 lakh crore invested in the agricultural sector," said the minister.
Goyal urged industry leaders to educate the farmers in their sphere of influence.
He urged them to "explain the benefits, explain how these laws without...in any way touching the past systems, open up new opportunities to do trade and commerce and business for our farmers so that they can go in for more investment".
"Explain to them how these reforms will spur investment in rural India, there will be R&D, more opportunities for value addition and, therefore, farmers can increase their income," Goyal urged industry leaders.
Meanwhile, dozens of farmers were detained in different parts of this district on Saturday for trying to make toll plazas on highways toll-free as part of their stir against the Central agri laws.
Farmers are protesting the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020; Farmers Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020; and The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act 2020.
Enacted in September, the three farm laws have been projected by the government as major reforms in the agriculture sector that will remove the middlemen and allow farmers to sell anywhere in the country.
However, the protesting farmers have expressed apprehension that the new laws would pave the way for eliminating the safety cushion of Minimum Support Price and do away with the mandis, leaving them at the mercy of big corporates.
(With inputs from PTI)