Paresh Dhanani addresses an election meeting in Amreli on Thursday. (Express Photo)
Claiming that the recent farm laws enacted by the Centre were not only anti-farmer but also anti-poor, Leader of Opposition in Assembly, Paresh Dhanani, on Thursday said the new laws give corporates a free hand to exploit both farmers and the poor and asked villagers to vote for Congress in the upcoming local body elections to “save democracy and future of India”.
Addressing an election gathering of farmers in Vankiya village of Amreli taluka in Amreli district, Dhanani said, “If the three black laws are implemented, farmer’s son is going to become a labourer in his own farm… APMCs (agricultural produce market committees) yards will shut down… For five years, companies will purchase (farmer’s) produce worth Rs100 from Vankiya itself by offering farmers Rs100. As you would be saving transportation cost, you would not go to Amreli to sell it. But after that, yards will close down and traders would be gone… handful of industrialists and new East India companies would offer you Rs50 for your produce worth Rs100,” Dhanani said.
Dhanani said farmers will then be left with no option. “You may not want to sell them at lower rates but where else would you go as APMC yards would be shut? Modern East India companies and handful industrialists… will pack in bags the wheat they would procure from us at Rs 300 and would then sell it back to us for Rs1,200 and we will have nowhere to go,” he said.
Last year, the Central government enacted three laws allowing private yards for primary trade of agricultural commodities while reducing jurisdiction of APMCs to the physical boundaries of their yards. The government also amended Essential Commodities Act to abolish stockholding limits by private firms. Farmers of Haryana and Punjab have been protesting against these new laws on the border of Delhi for months.
Giving example of corporates entering salt retail market, Dhanani said, “I have seen hawkers coming to our doorstep on New Year and sell one kilogram of salt for Rs 2. But corporates got involved, they packed the salt in bags and are extorting Rs 20 per kg from us.”
He alleged that the ruling BJP, by misusing state machinery, harassed Congress candidates in the elections to six municipal corporations in the state. “We selected good people as our candidates but they (BJP) issued them threats of framing them in false cases and therefore many of our candidates refused to contest… On poll eve, 10,000 Congress workers were detained in their homes and prevented from voting,” said Dhanani. The BJP won all six municipal corporations and Congress suffered its worst defeats, even failing to gain one seat in Surat.
About district, taluka panchayats and municipalities elections, he said, “This election is not about any individual or any ideology or about BJP or Congress but it is about to save the democratic system of governance… If you fail, our children would grow up and tell us due to our mistakes, they were born slaves.”
In the 2015 local body elections held in the backdrop of Patidar quota stir, Congress had won the district panchayat, most of taluka panchayats and municipalities in Amreli district. Congress also won all the five Assembly constituencies in 2017 election, winning total 77 seats in the Assembly.