Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday sought to put the blame of the current deadlock over farm laws on vested interests and said his government was willing to hold talks with all as long as the dialogue was based on facts and logic.
In his address after disbursing an instalment of the PM-Kisan scheme, Modi said when the agitation began, farmers had some genuine demands such as guaranteed minimum support price (MSP), but soon people with political motives took over it and started making unrelated demands such as the release of those accused of violence and making highways toll-free.
While putting up a strong defence of the three farm laws enacted in September, he said farmers in overwhelming numbers across the country had welcomed them.
Reacting to the PM’s allegation, the protesting farmers’ unions alleged that it was an attempt to “divide and mislead” the farmers and said they wanted a legal guarantee on MSP.
A farmer leader, Abhimanyu Kohar, said the unions did not allow any political party to use their stage and accused the government of diverting the issue. Kohar, who is also a member of the Sanyukt Kisan Morcha, said that during his speech, the PM claimed that the new farm laws would benefit farmers but did not tell how.
“The Centre is trying to mislead through numerous letters and is deliberately not reading the demand for the repeal of the laws and the draft electricity Bill of 2020. Farmers’ reply has clearly stated that it is about repeal and not changes in the Act,” said the All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee, one of the groups participating in the agitation. It said farmers never refused talks, but it should be on repeal. “We will wait till the government listens,” the association said.
The PM in his address said his government was approaching the dialogue with the protesting farmers with an open heart. He alleged that the parties rejected by the electorate were pushing their political agenda by misleading farmers and using their shoulders to fire at the government as they lacked any logical argument against these laws. “Our decision can be tested on logic and facts. If there are any shortcomings, it should be highlighted. It is a democracy. We are not claiming that God has given us all knowledge,” he added.
Farm reforms became necessary because poor farmers were getting poorer under the previous governments.
He cited the BJP’s victory in panchayat elections in several states to argue that these reforms had received support from farmers.
In his interaction with select farmers during the event, Modi also tried to allay fears that private firms might grab farmers’ land under the new contract farming law.
Thousands of farmers, mainly from Punjab, Haryana, and parts of Uttar Pradesh, are camping on various Delhi borders for almost a month to protest against the three farm laws. Five rounds of formal talks have failed to break the deadlock with the farmer groups refusing to accept anything less than the repeal of the laws.
While the government has projected these laws as major reforms for the benefit of farmers, the protesting unions have been saying that these laws would leave them at the mercy of corporates by weakening the MSP and mandi systems.
Meanwhile, Union ministers Amit Shah, Rajnath Singh, Prakash Javadekar, and Smriti Irani separately interacted with farmers at different places across the country.
In his rally, Singh appealed to farmers to try the three new farm laws as an “experiment” for a year or two and in case they were found not beneficial for the farming community, the government would do the necessary amendments.
Shah said no corporate could snatch away any farmer’s land as long as Modi was prime minister and asserted that the provision of MSP would continue and mandis would not be shut down.