Former union agriculture minister and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar stepped up his attack against the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led government on handling the farmers’ protest and also on the hasty manner in which farm laws were passed. These laws should have been discussed with the states before their passage in the parliament. “We are not opposed to reforms in agriculture. Changes must be made wherever possible. There are some things that people are upset about. But it can be resolved through discussion. When people from four or five states of the country come on the streets for 70-72 days without any protection from wind, cold and rain, the government should be sensitive,” he noted.
Pawar reiterated that the central government did not take states into confidence despite agriculture being a state subject. “My view is that Prime Minister Narendra Modi and senior ministers, including Rajnath Singh and Nitin Gadkari, should discuss the issues with farmers,” he said.
Pawar took a dig at Union Minister Piyush Goyal and said that he was not aware about the minister’s knowledge in agriculture. “Now, I have realised that Goyal is a farm expert,” he added. Pawar strongly emphasised the need for senior ministers to take the issue seriously given the unrest amongst farmers.
He recalled that discussions on farm laws started way back in 2003 when AB Vajpayee was the Prime Minister. “From 2004 to 2014, I was the Minister of Agriculture. There was a detailed discussion about this law at that time. Agriculture being a state subject, I had convened a meeting of all state agriculture ministers and formed a committee to prepare a model act for the states. The committee headed by former Maharashtra Minister Harshvardhan Patil prepared the model act, which was subsequently circulated to the states for further discussion. However, in the meantime, the government was changed,’’ he said.
“The difference is that the BJP-led government prepared the act and it was passed in haste and implemented,” said Pawar.