Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday reiterated his government’s call to farmers, whose protest entered the 23rd day, to come to the negotiating table to discuss the farm Acts, saying that if anyone has any doubt over the laws, the government is ready for talks with “folded hands and heads bowed”.
“Even after all the government’s efforts if anyone has any doubt over the farm laws, we, with folded hands and heads bowed, are ready for talks,” Modi said, while addressing farmers of Madhya Pradesh virtually.
He alleged that Opposition parties had themselves advocated such laws, but were protesting now because they did not want him to get credit for the reforms.
The agitating farmers, meanwhile, said the prime minister was playing politics without addressing their concerns, and is batting for corporates houses, unconcerned about the farmers’ plight despite the cold.
In his address, Modi also said the new laws were not drafted overnight and political parties, agriculture experts and progressive farmers had demanded it for a long time. “In fact, farmers should seek answers from those opposing [the laws] now as to why they advocated these farm laws in their manifestos for getting their votes, but never fulfilled the promise. It was not their priority,” the prime minister said.
“Their problem is how Modi has done it. Why Modi should get credit for it. Give credit to your manifesto and not to me. I just want the progress of farmers, but stop misleading them on the issue,” he added.
As to the fear that the minimum support price (MSP) for crops will be done away with, the prime minister said, “Our government is so serious about MSP that it announces it for crops even before sowing. Over six months have passed since the implementation of the new agriculture laws, and crops were purchased at MSP even during the coronavirus pandemic and in the same mandis (APMC markets) where farmers used to sell (earlier). No sane person will accept that MSP will be scrapped. Nothing will be a bigger lie and conspiracy than this.”
Those opposing the farm laws were also spreading lies about Agricultural Produce Market Committees (APMCs), the prime minister said. Under the new law, farmers are free to sell the produce in the existing APMC mandis if they get more price, he said. “Not a single mandi was closed in the last six months.”
Referring to the new law on contracts between private entities and farmers, he said such agreements existed earlier too. The new law makes such agreements more binding on private entities, and they cannot run away from their commitment to the farmer even if they suffer a loss, Modi said.
He will address the farmers again on December 25 on the issue, Modi said.
Meanwhile, Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar said in an interview to PTI that the government is continuing informal discussions with various groups to end the stalemate, but there was no point talking to those “shooting from peasants’ shoulders”.
The minister also hoped that a resolution would be reached before the year ends and asserted that the Modi government is committed to address all genuine concerns of the farming community.