Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar, who was the Union Agriculture Minister for 10 years in Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's government, on Saturday posted a critique of the new farm laws that have fuelled widespread protests and turmoil over the last two months.
In a series of tweets, the 80-year-old veteran politician, whose party commands a significant share of the agrarian vote in Maharashtra, said the new central laws will adversely affect the Minimum Support Price (MSP) and weaken the mandi system.
Mr Pawar's assessment comes amid escalating tensions between the government and farmers protesting the laws that peaked on Republic Day after violent clashes with the police as sections of their massive tractor parade strayed off agreed routes.
It was also seen as a counter to the BJP which has been attacking the opposition Congress and its allies like the NCP for their support to the farmers' movement, claiming that similar reforms had been planned for years before Prime Minister Narendra Modi took office.
Mr Pawar said he virtually participated in the all-party meeting with PM Modi in which issues related to the proposed agenda for the budget session, farmers' agitation, women's bill and other important issues were discussed.
Supporting the farmers stand that the new laws will result in loss of income, Mr Pawar said the new laws will adversely impact the MSP procurement infrastructure thereby weakening the mandi system. MSP mechanism has to be ensured and strengthened further, he added.
Reform is a continuous process and no one would argue against the reforms in the APMCs or Mandi System, a positive argument on the same does not mean that it is done to weaken or demolish the system.— Sharad Pawar (@PawarSpeaks) January 30, 2021
"During my tenure, the draft APMC Rules - 2007 were framed for the setting up of special markets thereby providing alternate platforms for farmers to market their commodities and utmost care was also taken to strengthen the existing Mandi system," he tweeted.
Mr Pawar said he was also concerned about the amended Essential Commodities Act.
"According to the Act, the Govt will intervene for price control only if rates of horticultural produce are increased by 100 per cent and that of non-perishable items increase by 50 per cent... Stock piling limits have been removed on food grain, pulses, onion, potato, oilseeds etc. It may lead to apprehensions that Corporates may purchase commodities at lower rates and stock pile and sell at higher prices to consumers," he wrote.