Tribune News Service
New Delhi, January 29
President Ram Nath Kovind on Friday allayed the fears of farmers on the three farm laws, saying the new agriculture legislations provided new avenues without altering any past structures and marked the culmination of decades-old discussions on the need for reforms.
Addressing the joint sitting of both Houses of Parliament and heralding the start of the Budget Session from today, the President also lamented the Republic Day violence in the capital during the farmers’ tractor parade and said the Constitution mandated people to respect the law as much as it guaranteed them a right to free expression.
“The recent acts of dishonouring the National Flag and showing disrespect to the auspicious occasion of the Republic Day are very unfortunate. While the Constitution gives us the right to freedom of expression, it is also expects us to abide by the laws and rules with equal sincerity,” the President said amid boycott of his speech by 19 opposition parties — including the Akali Dal, the AAP, the Congress, the BSP and the UPA partners.
Meanwhile, Congress MP Ravneet Bittu raised pro-farmer and anti-agriculture law slogans during the President’s address, in which he categorically backed the laws but said that the government was committed to the Apex Court’s orders staying the legislations.
Noting that benefits of the three important farm reforms had started reaching more than 10 crore small farmers instantly, the President said: “Appreciating the advantages that these reforms would bring to the small farmers, several political parties, too, from time to time had expressed their support. The farm laws were passed after comprehensive discussion in Parliament and mark an end of decades-long debate on the need for reforms.”
Reaching out to farmers, still agitating on Delhi borders for the repeal of the laws, the President said the Apex Court had stayed the implementation of the laws and the government would abide by the Supreme Court orders.
The President also assured farmers that the rights and facilities available under the foodgrain procurement system prevailing before the enactment of three new farm laws were not affected in any way.
“Through the agricultural reforms, the government has provided new facilities to farmers and has empowered them,” he said patting the government’s back for a series of steps to improve agricultural productivity, including the creation of modern agricultural infrastructure and the Agriculture Infrastructure Fund worth Rs 1 lakh crore.
The President also noted that the Centre had implemented the recommendations of the Swaminathan Committee report and increased the MSP to at least 1.5 times of the cost of production.
“The government has procured record foodgrains on MSP,” he said, noting that in 2013-14, only 42 lakh hectares of land was under micro-irrigation and today, the figure was 56 lakh hectares.
The President also hailed farmers for record high foodgrain production — from 234 million tons in 2008-09 to 296 million tons in 2019-20.
The President noted that in the agricultural sector, the need of the hour was to focus on small and marginal farmers who make up over 80 per cent of the farmers in the country, and number over 10 crore.
The President also lauded the government for COVID-19 management, saying it was a matter of pride that India was running the world’s largest COVID 19 vaccination drive.
Pitching for Atmanirbhar Bharat, the President said the decisions taken by the government to control the pandemic saved lakhs of lives and that there was now a rapid decline in the number of new cases.
The President also hailed the government for economic packages announced during the COVID-19 pandemic to ease the strain on the poor — including the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana, wherein 80 crore people were provided additional 5 kg free foodgrain per month for eight months, and the Garib Kalyan Rojgar Abhiyan implemented in six states to provide employment to migrants who returned home due to the pandemic.
He said the initiative created 50 crore mandays of employment.
President Kovind also highlighted India’s self reliance pith during COVID noting: “To enhance our relevance or importance, we must minimise our dependence on others and become self-reliant.”
On the LAC stand-off, the President assured the nation that the security forces had forcefully thwarted all Chinese attempts to alter the status quo and additional troops had been deployed on the border to safeguard national sovereignty.
He spoke of the government’s resolve to fight violence and noted that due to the government’s efforts there had been major reductions in naxal violence.
The President also lauded the government for successful conduct of district development council polls in Jammu and Kashmir, and said the abrogation of Article 370 had given the people of the Union Territory new rights.