New laws giving farmers freedom in selling their produce have been brought in after a “lot of thought” but are opposed by political parties for selfish reasons, said Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday as he insisted that support price for agricultural produce will continue.
“Farm laws have not been introduced overnight. Over last 20-30 years, central and state governments had detailed discussions on these reforms. Agriculture experts, economists and progressive farmers have been demanding such reforms,” he said in a speech defending the reforms.
“Those who governed before us wrote tall promises in their election manifestos and gave big assurances to farmers, but after winning the elections they did nothing about the farmers and the promises made to them. For decades the farmers were neglected,” he said in a speech video streamed to farmers for an event organised by the Madhya Pradesh government.
Modi’s government in September introduced three farm bills that it says will allow farmers to sell their produce only at regulated wholesale markets and make contract farming easier. Farmers say that the new laws will leave them at the mercy of big corporations.
“These laws have not been brought in overnight. There has been a lot of thought that has gone into it,” he said, adding that the minimum support price for agricultural produce would be scrapped. “There cannot be a bigger lie or conspiracy to say that MSP will go away.”
Thousands of farmers angered by the three laws that they say threaten their livelihoods have intensified their protests by blocking highways and camping out on the outskirts of Delhi.
Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar said on Friday his government is in informal discussions with various groups to end opposition to the reforms. “Overall, our effort is to reach a solution through dialogue with them. We are still open for talks. We are holding discussions with unions. I hope through dialogue we can move towards reaching a solution,” Tomar said in an interview to PTI.
The Supreme Court on Thursday rejected calls to ban the protest and asked the government and unions to help form a committee of experts to mediate between them. It asked the attorney general if the government could give a commitment that the contentious laws would not be put into effect while the petitions seeking the removal of farmers from protest sites were being heard.