Despite the government’s repeated claims that they have held multiple consultations with ‘stakeholders’ before the three farm bills were enacted into laws, in response to an RTI query filed by NDTV seeking information about such meetings held with farmers, the government said they do not “hold any record in this matter.”
The government has been repeatedly criticised by the opposition and farmer groups protesting the new farm laws for not holding enough consultations before the bills were passed.
However, the government has maintained that multiple consultations were held with farmers.
Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar in an online event streamed live on Facebook on Monday said that “these laws have been discussed in the country for a very long time. Many committees were set up which then conducted many consultations across the country.”
Similarly, Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad had tweeted earlier this month that “extensive consultations, trainings and outreach programmes were conducted on the Agriculture Laws with stakeholders.”
“A total of 1.37 lakh webinars and trainings were conducted since June, 2020 where 92.42 lakh farmers participated,” he added.
A note from government sources trying to debunk the “perception that the central government has not done extensive outreach and consultations with farmers and their representatives,” claimed that in the run-up to the announcements of the reforms, the government had consulted various experts, officials, agriculture departments of various states etc.
“Feedback was also obtained from few progressive farmers and knowledgeable mandi officials. There were multiple meetings with FPOs (Farmer Producer Organizations) through video conferences. The Ministry also consulted a prominent Farmers union and even did a change in the ordinance after their feedback,” it said.
But the latest RTI response received by NDTV casts serious doubts over the veracity of these claims.
NDTV filed an RTI query with the Department of Agriculture, Cooperation and Farmer’s Welfare, on December 15, 2020, asking for details of the consultations, if any, that the government had undertaken with farmer groups passing the three laws.
NDTV asked whether the government had held any consultations with farmer groups before the bills were enacted into laws, and if so, how many such meetings were held. We also asked for details of these meetings, including the dates of such consultation meetings, the names of the farmer representatives that attended the meetings and the farmer groups they were affiliated to, and the details of all other attendees of the meetings. We also requested them to provide us with a copy of the minutes of these meetings.
We received a response from the government on December 22, saying that the Chief Public Information Officer “does not hold any record in this matter” and that the request had been disposed of.
NDTV has since filed an appeal, citing the multiple instances that the union ministers have claimed that the government had consulted farmers before passing the laws, and requested that we be provided the full, correct and complete information.
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