Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday said that farmers in India now have the power to sell their produce wherever they get the best price and to anyone they want, in a reference to the recently-passed farming bills in the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha.

In his monthly radio programme “Mann Ki Baat”, the prime minister also spoke about removing the Agricultural Produce Market Committee or APMC in Maharashtra and said that it has helped the farmers of the state. He said farmers in Pune and Mumbai were running parallel markets. “It has a very flexible system and that too has evolved five-six years ago,” Modi said.

The prime minister further said farmers have suffered a lot due to the coronavirus pandemic, but that they have shown prowess to overcome this crisis. He called the agriculture sector the backbone of self-reliant India and said that if the farmers remained strong, the foundation of Atmanirbhar Bharat would remain strong.

He also remembered Mahatma Gandhi, whose birth anniversary is on October 2, and said that if we had grasped his economic principles and implemented them, we would not have needed the call for a self-reliant India today. “Revered Bapu’s life reminds us to ensure that all our actions should be such that it leads to the well of being of the poor and the deprived,” he said.

Modi also praised former Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri for his message of “humility and simplicity”. Shashtri’s birth anniversary also falls on October 2. The prime minister also remembered Bharat Ratna recipient Jayprakash Narayan and Padma Vibhushan awardee and social reformer Nanaji Deshmukh. Their birth anniversaries are on October 11.

Modi paid his respects to freedom fighter Bhagat Singh, whose birth anniversary is on Tuesday. “I join my fellow countrymen in bowing before the paragon of courage and bravery, Shaheed Veer Bhagat Singh.” He said that the British Empire, which used to spread across the globe, was frightened by the 23-year-old man. “He [Bhagat Singh] sacrificed himself for a mission which was to help India attain freedom from the British.”

Modi then compared Bhagat Singh’s love for the country to the soldiers who conducted the surgical strikes. “Four years ago, around this time, the world witnessed our courage, bravery and valiance of out soldiers during the surgical strike,” he said. “Our Brave soldiers had just one mission and one goal – to protect at all costs, the glory and honour of Mother India.”

In September 2016, the armed forces had conducted what they called a “surgical strike” against militants along the Line of Control with Pakistan. This had come after 19 Indian soldiers were killed in a terror attack in Uri in the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir.

The prime minister also reminded citizens to wear a mask and maintain physical distancing in view of the coronavirus pandemic. “These few rules are our weapon in our fight against corona, a powerful resource to save the life of every citizen,” he said, adding that till we have vaccine a vaccine, we cannot let our guards down.

Meanwhile, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi took a jibe at the prime minister, questioning the government’s strategy to deal with the pandemic.

“It’s a justified question, but how long will India wait for the government’s answer?” he said on Twitter. “Hope Covid access strategy would have been the ‘Mann ki Baat’.” Rahul Gandhi also attached a screenshot of a news article on the development of the coronavirus vaccine.