Farmers need not worry about abolition of the Minimum Support Price or mandi system, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in a nearly hour long address to farmers on Friday. He added that his government was willing to discuss the three new agri-marketing reforms, which has triggered massive protests by the farming community, clause-by-clause.
Addressing farmers from Madhya Pradesh via video link as part of the government’s outreach program, Modi said he was ready “with folded hands and bowed head” to talk on every issue. “The country’s farmers and their interests are among our top priorities,” the PM said as protests by more than 30 farmer unions continued for the 23rd day at Delhi’s borders.
Attacking the opposition, Modi told farmers that three big falsehoods were being spread about the farm laws — that the MSP system will end, mandis will be phased out, and that farmers will suffer at the hands of the investor if they enter into an agreement as per guidelines set in the farm laws. He said that the farmers should be wary of political parties that are trying to “manipulate and mislead” them for political gains.
Attacking the Congress, whose leaders have spoken publicly against the new laws, Modi said some political parties opposed the reforms only because the credit was going to the Prime Minister and not to the opposition parties which had promised similar farm laws in their manifestos. “If today manifestos of all political parties are checked, their earlier statements are heard and their letters seen, these reforms are not different from what they promised… I humbly with folded hands urge them to take all the credit. I give credit to all your manifestos,” Modi said.
He added that the opposition parties were trying to reap political harvest by misleading and rallying the farmers against these laws. “For several years, farmers have been protesting for reforms. When the same parties were in power, what did they do? The previous government buried the Swaminathan Commission report which recommended 1.5 times MSP to farmers. We took that file out of the dusty corners in which it was thrown and gave farmers what was recommended,” the PM said.
Modi highlighted the unfulfilled promises of the Congress, which he said had come to power in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh on the back of farm loan waiver promises but was yet to fulfill them. The Prime Minister said farmers across the country had rejected the misleading campaigns against the three farm laws. These laws had not been brought about overnight, Modi said. “Farmers, agriculture scientists, economists and experts were consulted, along with farmer leaders, at length,” Modi said.
Farmers, mostly from Punjab, have demanded that the Modi government roll back the reforms intended to bring investment in the antiquated farm sector but which the farmers say will leave them at the mercy of big corporations. The government has sought to allay concerns, telling farmers they will gain new rights and opportunities. Six rounds of talks between agriculture minister Narendra Singh Tomar and farmers’ union leaders have failed to resolve the deadlock.