In the latest edition of Nation Wants to Know with Editor in Chief Arnab Goswami, Indian business magnate Rakesh Jhunjhunwala spoke candidly about the ongoing farmers' agitation and also about the opposition in the political system of the country. He said the right to protest is a natural democratic right but this is a protest to protect vested interests.
"And I think the farmers lost the battle, the day the government offered to keep the laws in aberration for 18 months and negotiate. They (farmers) did not agree due to their arrogance. That day farmers lost the battle. And I think beyond that the government could not do anything," he said.
To elaborate on why entry of the private sector is necessary in agriculture, he gave an example of potatoes which are not available even at Rs 40 per kg in Mumbai, while the potatoes aren't finding any buyers at Rs 3 per kg in West Bengal due to its availability in plenty. He opined that there should be infrastructure in logistics, transportation, and storage so as to transport agricultural products from one part of the country to another. He opined that neither the agitating farmer unions nor the government will build the required infrastructure, only the private sector can build the required infrastructure.
He added, "You have potatoes not available in Bombay at Rs 40. And there is no buyer of potatoes for Rs 3 in West Bengal. How are you going to narrow down this difference? When you create your logistics of having the ability to store the potatoes and transport it to other parts of the country economically. Who is going to do it? The government? The farmers' associations? You will have to involve the private sector. You are giving farmers the biggest freedom. They can sell to whom they want," he said.
Jhunjhunwala also stated that Punjab has an acute crisis of water table and hence it should be the last place to grow paddy, yet the state is growing no other crop apart from paddy because it enjoys minimum support price on it.
"There is so much problem in Punjab for water tables. And they are going paddy in Punjab! Punjab is the last place where they should grow paddy. And if you keep giving a minimum support price, then why will the farmer grow any other crop. I personally feel the change in the farm laws is perfectly justified. Pepsi, Coke all are doing corporate farming in Punjab. Are they having any problems? This farmers' agitation just shows how difficult it is to bring changes in India," he said.
Speaking of the opposition, especially the Congress which played a crucial role in fueling the farmers' protests, Jhunjhunwala said, "We should have an effective opposition in the country that is very much needed and that will only happen when the control of the Congress party is not with the Gandhi family, which is still 5-7 years away. Before that, we are not going to have an effective opposition in the country."
Congress has resorted to fearmongering on multiple occasions on the issue of MSP, despite the Centre categorically stating that the MSP mechanism will not be impacted due to the new farm laws. Moreover, the Centre has also asserted that the new farm laws empower the farmers to sell to the private sector at better prices while having the option to sell in Mandis through the conventional medium. Also, the laws do not allow the corporate sector to enter contracts involving the sale or transfer of lands of the farmers, thus protecting the farmers' interest. However, the agitation against the farm laws continues to date.