Congress stoking fears among farmers; MSP regime will continue: Prakash Javadekar

Prakash Javadekar says farmers’ agitation in some states is because some parties want to do politics out of this. The concern has always been if the MSP (minimum support price) will remain or not, and the MSP has remained untouched.

ANI
I&B minister Prakash Javadekar
A day after Haryana and Punjab witnessed massive farmer protests against the new farm Bills passed by Parliament, and the Shiromani Akali Dal leaving the ruling NDA, information and broadcasting minister Prakash Javadekar says some political parties were misleading farmers and "politicising" the farm reform move. In an interview with Vasudha Venugopal, the minister accuses the opposition of resorting to "undemocratic methods" to register their protest in Parliament and blocking the farmers from having the "choice of many options". He also responds to questions on the drug probe into the film industry, Supreme Court’s pulling up of Sudarshan TV and the I&B ministry rejecting the OTT self-regulation model proposed by streaming companies. Edited excerpts:

On farmers' protests against the farm Bills
The farmers' agitation in some states is because some parties want to do politics out of this. The concern has always been if the MSP (minimum support price) will remain or not, and the MSP has remained untouched. There was another concern if the APMC (agricultural produce market committee) market would open or not. Today you see the markets have opened and they started procuring paddy the way they used to. So, the MSP regime that has been operational for many years will remain the same as it was for the last 16 years. Only that the new Ordinances will free the farmers from the clutches of regulations and enable them to sell at the best price. We used to have levy under the Essential Commodities Act (ECA) which is gone now. There will be more investment, technology and innovation in the agriculture sector now which will help farmers. The new Bills give the options to the farmer to go for contract farming, decide the lease or go with the APMC market … the window of options is open in front of him now. Even today, the Congress claims Dr Manmohan Singh played a key role in liberalisation for industries. But when the same liberalisation is done to benefit farmers, they try to obstruct it.

On demand that MSP be guaranteed

There is no question about MSP not being there, as the system is not changing and we are only giving more options to the farmers. The agriculture sector needs investment and wherever there is instability, investment cannot flow in. To create stability in the regulatory environment, the ECA has been amended so that farmers can produce and sell without interference of the government. Now, with proper price discovery set to happen even while the safety net of MSP remains for various items, the options are wider for farmers.

On the SAD leaving the NDA
I don't want to comment on this. They have their views on this issue. Every party has the right to make these decisions.

On protests in Punjab
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A great agricultural state like Punjab stands to gain immensely from these changes … With greater private investment, more technology, more market linkages, Punjab, whose farmers’ crops are sought after across India today, can become the export powerhouse of India in many more crops.

On allegation that the Bills were an encroachment on the functions of states
These Bills do not encroach upon in any way the APMC Act, which is an Act of the states. It will be completely the prerogative of the states on what happens to the APMC system. Farmers for years have been fighting for better prices, greater transparency and curbing the role of middlemen. The trade happening outside APMCs will be covered under the new law. All these decades we have followed the ‘only APMC’ method. It is time to think of better price discovery through alternative trading channels than APMCs. That is what these Bills do. Let farmers choose what suits them better. The Congress, just before the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, announced that Congress-ruled states should de-notify fruits and vegetables from the APMC Act. Congress-ruled states of Karnataka, Assam, Himachal Pradesh, Meghalaya and Haryana went ahead and de-notified the fruits & vegetables.

On opposition's allegation that the passage of the Bills was undemocratic
The opposition disregarded physical distancing and came to the well of the house. They threw paper balls on the deputy chairman. Harivanshji repeatedly asked them to go back to their seats and participate in their debate but they didn't. It was a reckless and irresponsible behaviour on part of the opposition, and the worst was that they justified their behaviour outside … They did not even apologise. The opposition parties have resorted to anti-democratic methods of protest.

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On the drug probe into the film industry and allegations that the government was going after dissenters
Three national investigating agencies are investigating the whole matter. Under the I&B ministry we have only the CBFC (Central Board for Film Certification) and we do take the initiative to organise film festivals. But that is about it. Hence, we have nothing to do with it.

On the Supreme Court pulling up Sudarshan TV for anti-Muslim content
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The case is very much live, hence I don't think it is appropriate to talk about it. We respect the judicial process. Censorship was removed after the emergency in 1975. In the case of news content, we are using advisories regularly. We take notes of all that it is transmitted. But we can't pre-censor print or TV news. I don't think it will be appreciated if we do that. Let the court come up with its verdict and then we can discuss.

On the I&B ministry rejecting the self-regulation code suggested by OTT players
Every day, I receive hundreds of complaints about some programmes on some OTT platforms with some very problematic content. There is very good content, but there is also very bad content about which I get complaints regularly. I had taken two meetings with industry stakeholders on how they can have a self-regulation model in place. I suggested they have a model in place of addressing grievances such as the broadcasters or the advertisers do, like the BCCC (Broadcasting Content Complaints Council) or the ASCI (Advertising Standards Council of India), or even what the news broadcasters have in the form of NBSA (News Broadcasting Standards Authority). This model will help anyone who wants to complain and get a response. There is a retired judge and independent experts in these bodies who can look at complaints objectively. But what they have offered does not address that. It is not even an internal body for all platforms. It is just a token model.
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