RTI reply by Agriculture Ministry goes against Centre’s stand that wide-ranging talks were held

The Union Agriculture Ministry could not provide any record of pre-legislative consultations on the three farm reform laws, according to a response given by it to a query under the Right to Information Act.

Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar has repeatedly said that wide-ranging consultations were held on the three laws.

The Centre has now filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court saying that it is an “erroneous notion” that no consultations were held.

In December 2020, RTI activist Anjali Bhardwaj asked the Agriculture Ministry for all details regarding stakeholder consultations held before the Centre promulgated three ordinances on agricultural reforms in June.

She asked for dates and attendees of meetings, copies of minutes, and lists of the States, experts and farmers groups who had been consulted.

Copy sought

The RTI request also asked for a copy of the comments and communications that had been sent by the States with which the consultations had been held.

In a separate RTI filing, she also asked for details to show that the Centre had placed the draft legislation in the public domain for 30 days, in accordance with norms set by its own Pre-Legislative Consultation Policy as well as by the Central Information Commission.

The requests were both passed between multiple departments in the Ministry. Two Central Public Information Officers forwarded and transferred the requests.

Two others disposed of the request, with one from the Ministry’s marketing cell saying that “this CPIO does not hold any record in this matter”.

The fourth, from the section dealing with the administrative work of the Agricultural Marketing Division, said that “the information is treated as nil” as far as her section was concerned. The requests were then disposed of and these replies were sent to the activist.

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