Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday said that the contentious new agriculture laws were not brought overnight and have been recommended by many stakeholders, including farmer bodies and Opposition parties.
“Every government in the past 20-22 years have discussed these laws at length,” Modi said, while addressing farmers in Madhya Pradesh, via video conferencing. “Farmers, farmer bodies, experts and scientists related to agriculture have advocated for these reforms.”
He also attacked the Opposition, claiming it was using farmers as a front and instigating them against the new laws, to serve their vested political interests. “The country should make those accountable who have over the years mentioned these reforms in their manifestos, but did nothing to realise them,” he said.
He claimed that the Opposition parties were not concerned about the new laws, but were uncomfortable as they were apprehensive of the current regime getting the credit for them. “These parties are pained today,” he said. “They are asking themselves, how could Modi do what we could not? Why should he get credit? My reply to them is, you can keep the credit. I don’t want credit. I want farmers’ lives to improve. Stop misleading farmers. Even after all these government’s efforts if anyone has any doubt over the farm laws, we, with folded hands and heads bowed, are ready for talks.”
He alleged that the Opposition’s lack of commitment towards farmers could be seen in the fact that they did nothing to implement the Swaminathan Committee report. “We recovered the Swaminathan report files that were thrown away to rot,” the prime minister said. “We implemented the Minimum Support Price recommendations.”
The National Commission on Farmers, chaired by Professor MS Swaminathan, submitted five reports between December 2004 and October 2006, provided key recommendations on Minimum Support Price, land reform and other agriculture-related policies.
The prime minister alleged that the Opposition parties were misleading the farmers on Minimum Support Price, Agricultural Produce Market Committee Act and farming agreement.
“It’s been more than six months since the new laws have been implemented and MSP [Minimum Support Price] has been provided just like earlier,” says PM Modi. “How can then someone say that the MSP regime will be done away with? It is the biggest lie ever...It is the biggest conspiracy ever.”
The prime minister claimed that his government was “so serious” about MSP that it “announces it for crops even before sowing”, reported PTI.
He also defended the APMC Act stating that the new law will not affect the existing mandis (wholesale markets) and will only give an extra option to the farmers to sell their produce to other buyers. “Not a single mandi was closed in the last six months,” Modi added. “In fact, the government is spending Rs 500 crore on their modernisation.”
Referring to the new law on contracts between private entities and farmers, he said such agreements existed earlier too. The new law makes such agreements more binding on private entities, and they can not run away from their commitment to the farmers’ even if they suffer a loss, Modi said.
The prime minister then renewed his attack on the Opposition. “Two years ago it was promised that loans will be waived, but farmers of Madhya Pradesh know better than me how many farmers got benefit in reality,” he said, referring to the tenure of the Congress-led Kamal Nath government. “In Rajasthan, farmers are still waiting for the loan waiver.”
Meanwhile, the ongoing farmers’ agitation entered its 23rd day on Friday, as the protestors continued to block various borders of the national Capital, demanding a repeal of the farm laws.
Farm law protests
Tens of thousands of farmers, mostly from Punjab and Haryana, have been protesting at key entry points to Delhi for 23 days against the laws. The farmers fear the agricultural reforms will weaken the minimum support price mechanism under which the government buys agricultural produce, will lead to the deregulation of crop-pricing, deny them fair remuneration for their produce and leave them at the mercy of corporations.
The government, on the other hand, maintains that the new laws will give farmers more options in selling their produce, lead to better pricing, and free them from unfair monopolies.