Sharad Pawar, the tallest farmer leader in the country, finally broke his silence on the ongoing farmers’ protests, waking up from his two-month-long slumber. He said the Prime Minister and Defence Minister should intervene in the matter to end the deadlock between the farmers and the government.
“In my opinion, the central government should take an initiative and a senior-level minister should intervene. I don’t want to disrespect Narendra Singh Tomar (Union agriculture minister) but the Prime Minister or defence minister should intervene then the issue may be resolved. If it happens then those leading the protest should also look for a resolution,” Pawar told reporters.
Sharad Pawar has aired very little criticism of the content of the farm bills because as finance minister during the two UPA governments, he had supported the liberalisation of the agricultural sector. In fact, when the bill was passed in the parliament, he said that farm laws are well-intentioned but passed in haste.
Now, one can raise questions over the process of passing the bills, and Pawar, being in the opposition is expected to do the same. But as far as the content of the bill is concerned, he has opined very little opposition, even though many opposition parties including his coalition partners Congress and Shiv Sena have taken a 180-degree turn on the bills.
A few weeks ago, an interview of Sharad Pawar, in which he talked about the agriculture sector liberalisation when he was agriculture minister, went viral on social media.
After that Ravi Shankar Prasad, Union Minister and senior BJP leader attacked the opposition leaders over their “shameful double standards”. “In an interview with Shekhar Gupta, Sharad Pawar the APMC Act will end in six months… The recommendation of the Planning Commission came during the UPA government that the central government may enact inter-state agriculture trade act,” Mr Prasad said.
“When Sharad Pawar was saying that if we do not improve then we will stop giving financial support, then SP, TDP, Left were all supporting Manmohan government. This is your double character. You are ready to go to any limit,” he added.
Pawar was one of the most ardent supporters of farm trade liberalisation in the Manmohan Singh government. He wrote a letter to chief ministers of many states to repeal or amend the APMC act on the lines of the “model act” introduced by the Vajpayee government in 2003.
Soon many states like Bihar, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, and Chhattisgarh amended it to a large extent. So, as far as the policy is concerned, there was a consensus that the farmers needed to be freed from APMCs. And, some states did it partially while some like Bihar did it fully. The new amendments implemented by the Modi government aim to free the farmers across the country from the clutches of APMCs and provide them with complete freedom.
The policy change to free the farmers was under discussion since the early 2000s, and the Vajpayee government prepared Model APMC laws. After that, the UPA government fully supported these laws and Sharad Pawar talked about incentivising the states which will implement these reforms. However, no government has the guts to implement these reforms throughout the country until the Modi government did it.
And now, when the Modi government has implemented these laws, the opposition parties are opposing them, which is a purely political move. However, Sharad Pawar, the tallest farmer leader of the country, at this point, is still taking a nuanced position on the same.