Prime Minister Narendra Modi has accused critics of the Centre’s new farm laws of intellectual dishonesty and political deceit in an interview to the Open magazine published on Saturday.

“If you look at those who are opposing the pro-farmer reforms today, you will see the real meaning of intellectual dishonesty and rajneetik dhokhadhadi [political deceit],” Modi said.

The prime minister said the Opposition parties had earlier promised in their manifestos to bring about the same changes as those mentioned in the farm laws.

“Yet, just because some other political party, blessed by the will of the people, is enacting the same reforms, they have made a complete U-turn and in a brazen display of intellectual dishonesty, completely disregard what will benefit the farmers and only seek what they think will benefit them politically,” he remarked.

Modi said that the government has maintained from the beginning that it is willing to discuss any disagreements. “Many meetings have also been held in this regard but no one till now has come up with a specific point of disagreement that we want this to be changed,” he said.

The new farm laws aim to open up the country’s agriculture markets to private companies. The Centre claims that the laws will give farmers more access to markets and boost production through private investment. However, critics fear that they will make farmers vulnerable to corporate exploitation and will dismantle the minimum support price regime.

Thousands of farmers, mostly from Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh, have been protesting at Delhi’s entry points since November 2020, seeking the rollback of the laws.

Covid-19 pandemic

In the interview to the Open magazine, Modi also claimed that India has dealt with the coronavirus pandemic better than many developed countries.

“We managed to save the lives of a large number of people during the pandemic,” he claimed. “We also cannot forget those we have lost. For their families, it would be an irreparable loss.”

During the second wave of the coronavirus in April and May, India struggled with a grave oxygen crisis as well as shortages of medical infrastructure such as beds.

At its peak in May, India had recorded more than 4 lakh daily coronavirus cases and the single-day toll was in thousands. Experts had claimed that India was undercounting deaths. At the time, the Modi government was widely criticised for its handling of the crisis.

The average number of daily coronavirus cases has significantly reduced since then. On Saturday, India reported 24,354 new Covid-19 cases and 234 deaths.

The prime minister called the Covid-19 pandemic a “global scourge” that affected all countries equally.

“However, we have in our midst vested interests whose only aim is to tarnish India’s name...India has done better than its peers and many developed countries, notwithstanding such negative campaigns,” he claimed.

Modi said that India was earlier a net importer of personalised protection equipment kits and is now one of its biggest manufacturers globally. “Similarly, we not only managed to exponentially increase the number of ventilators but also did so largely through domestic manufacturing,” he said.

‘I miss critics,’ says Modi

Modi also said that he gives a lot of importance to criticism and greatly respects critics.

“But, unfortunately, the number of critics is very few,” the prime minister told the Open magazine. “Mostly, people only level allegations, the people who play games about perception are more in number.”

The reason for this, Modi said, is that criticism involves lot of hard work and research. “In today’s fast-paced world, maybe people don’t have time,” he added. “So sometimes, I miss critics.”