Defence minister Rajnath Singh on Sunday told farmers that the new farm laws introduced by the government are aimed to continue the process of agricultural reforms spearheaded initially by the Vajpayee government.
The defence minister was addressing a virtual event to celebrate the completion of three years of Jai Ram Thakur government in Himachal Pradesh. During his speech, Rajnath Singh said that when he was the agriculture minister in 2003 he had faced challenges in lowering input costs in farming. He said at that time banks charged 14-18% interest on farm loans.
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“It surprised me that interest charged on motor vehicle loans was close to 8% but for a productive sector like farming banks were levying 14-18% interest rates on agricultural loans,” Singh said.
“I requested finance minister Jaswant Singh to reduce interest rates for farmers. He was reluctant initially, but after prime minister Vajpayee’s nudge, he agreed to reduce interest rates. PM Modi’s new laws are aimed at continuing the process of reforms which was introduced by Atal Bihari Vajpayee,” Singh further added.
Singh also assured farmers all over the country during his speech that under the new laws they now can sell their produce anywhere in the country. He also reiterated his previous proposal from last week where he asked farmers to allow the implementation of the laws for a year and then seek changes if the laws do not prove to be beneficial.
The defence minister also hit out at Congress and other opposing parties during his speech saying that the laws have scared elements who previously took advantage of the shortcomings in the agricultural sector. He also said that the Minimum Support Price system (MSP) of procurement will continue.
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Leaders of farmers’ unions on Saturday informed the government that they are ready to sit for another round of discussions on December 29. They have said that discussions can be held if the government agrees on discussing modalities to repeal the newly introduced laws and legal guarantee of procurement under the MSP system.
The month-long protest by farmers’ groups at Delhi’s borders has entered its 32nd day. Farmers still believe that the government’s laws will pave the way for contract farming and affect the procurement process.