Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday claimed that the Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance government has created history with its announcement of minimum support price for farmers. Modi accused the Opposition of lying to the farmers and “shooting from their shoulders” amid nationwide protests over the farm bills, according to PTI.
The prime minister said that his government had simplified the process of sale of crops for the farmers. “The farmers were entwined in laws that prevented them from selling their produce at prices that they wanted; consequently, even though the produce went up, their income did not go up,” Modi said in his virtual address at the celebration of the Foundation Day of Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Grameen Kaushalya Yojana. He accused the Opposition of misleading the famers.
Reacting to farmers’ protest against the Centre’s agriculture bills, Modi said, “In the name of farmers and labourers, governments were formed many times in the country, but what did they get? Just a tangled web of promises and laws, a trap that neither the farmer nor the labourer could understand.”
Modi said the NDA government has worked relentlessly to change this situation. “First the government fixed the MSP one and a half times the cost, increased the records and also ensured the government procurement of records,” he added. “Now the benefit of Kisan credit card is also being given to cattle farmers and people associated with fisheries.”
The MSP is the rate at which the government purchases crops from farmers and is based on a calculation of at least one and a half times the cost of production. On Monday, Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar had told the Lok Sabha that the Cabinet has approved MSP hikes for six crops, ranging from Rs 50 to Rs 300.
The prime minister urged BJP workers to reach out to farmers and inform them “in a very simplified language” the intricacies of the new farm reforms. “Our ground connect will bust the lies and rumours being spread in virtual world,” he added.
This came in the midst of massive protests by farmers across the country against the three controversial legislations passed in Parliament. Farmers and traders have been vehemently opposing the new bills, alleging the government wants to discontinue the minimum support price regime in the name of reforms. They fear that the bills will leave them at the mercy of corporate powers.
Three controversial Bills on agriculture reforms are set to become law after being passed by the Rajya Sabha on September 20 in the middle of utter pandemonium. The three bills are the Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill. The last one was also approved by a voice vote in Rajya Sabha on Tuesday.
Speaking about the new labour laws, the prime minister said these will ensure timely salary for over 50 crore organised and unorganised workers. “The new labour reforms will transform the lives of our labour force,” Modi said. “Till now, only 30% of the workers across the country were covered under the minimum wage guarantee scheme. Now, it will expand to workers of all the industries in the unorganised sector.”
Despite strong opposition, the Labour Code on Wages was passed in 2019, while three others, on Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions, Social Security and Industrial Relations were passed on Wednesday after several rounds of revisions.
The government claimed that the exercise of reform was aimed to extend coverage of statutory protection (including need based minimum wages, non-hazardous working conditions, universal social security entitlements) to unorganised sector workers, including new forms of work in the platform/gig economy. However, critics say the codes miserably fail to extend any form of social protection to the vast majority of informal sector workers including migrant workers, self-employed workers, home-based workers and other vulnerable groups.