Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday said those opposing the new farm laws, which were passed by Parliament recently, were insulting the farmers, reported ANI. Modi’s comments came amid nationwide protests by several farmer organisations and Opposition parties against the three contentious laws.

“Several reforms, related to farmers, labourers and health, were brought during the recently concluded Parliament session,” Modi said while inaugurating development projects in Uttarakhand through video-conferencing. “These reforms will strengthen labourers, youth, women, farmers of the nation. But the nation can see how some people are opposing it just for the sake of it.”

“They are insulting the farmers by setting fire to the machines and equipment that is worshipped by them,” said the prime minister. Punjab Youth Congress workers on Monday had set a tractor on fire near India Gate in Delhi during the protests. Five demonstrators were arrested. The Delhi Police detained Congress leader Anil Kumar and other workers during a protest at Rajghat.

Modi again reiterated that farmers could now sell their produce to anyone and anywhere. “But when Centre is giving farmers their rights, these people are opposing it,” he said. “They don’t want farmers to sell their produce in open market, they want middlemen to earn profit. They’re opposing the freedom of farmers.”

The prime minister accused the Opposition of misleading the farmers over the minimum support price. 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. “There will not only be MSP in the country but also the freedom for farmers to sell their produce anywhere,” he said. “But some people are unable to tolerate this freedom. Their one more medium to earn black income is finished. For years, they said that they will implement MSP but they never did. This was done by our government as per the recommendation of the Swaminathan Commission.”

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 were cleared by Parliament last week amid protests from the Opposition. President Ram Nath Kovind gave assent to the bills on September 27, after which they became laws.

Critics say that these new agricultural policies would lead to farmers losing out on guaranteed purchase prices for their crops, to the benefit of large corporations.

Centre’s defence

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had said on Sunday that the laws do not hurt farmers. Minister of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare Narendra Tomar had held consultations with all stakeholders such as farmers and other MPs before introducing them in Parliament, Sitharaman said, adding that Opposition parties were now doing a disservice by protesting against them.

Sitharaman had announced these agricultural reforms on May 15 as part of the Atma Nirbhar fiscal and monetary package to revive the economy amid the coronavirus pandemic. The bills were then promulgated as ordinances in June and rushed through Parliament in September.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi , meanwhile, had 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 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.