Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday released Rs 18,000 crore for over nine crore farmers under the Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi or PM-KISAN scheme amid massive protests against the Centre’s agricultural laws. He spoke with farmers from six states in a bid to clarify the government’s position, claiming people are spreading misinformation about the new legislations.

“Some are spreading misinformation that contract farming would mean farmers will lose their lands,” he said as he spoke with farmers from Arunachal Pradesh. “Thanks for clarifying that your land would remain intact.”

While speaking to a farmer from Odisha, the prime minister urged him to inform others about the Kisan Credit Card and its benefits.

“The same people who are sitting in support of farmers protest today, are the ones who send farmers to jail in the name of protecting the environment if they happen to hurt wild animals in saving their crop,” Modi said.

A farmer from Uttar Pradesh told the prime minister that no land will be lost with new laws. “Farmers like you saying no land will be lost, will help eradicate misinformation that politicians are spreading to further their agenda,” Modi responded. Opposition leaders have insisted that the laws will leave farmers at the mercy of big corporations and urged the government to call a special parliamentary session to withdraw it.

Friday’s installment was released on the birth anniversary of former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, also celebrated as Good Governance Day by the saffron party. Modi said Vajpayee considered corruption in agriculture a “national disease” and was always supportive of reforms.

Modi congratulated Hari Singh from Haryana’s Fatehabad district for adopting crop diversification, while a farmer from Madhya Pradesh said the new farm laws were beneficial as he sold his soyabean crop to a private firm.

From Maharashtra’s Latur district, Ganesh Bhonsle claimed he had paid a premium of Rs 2,580 under the Pradhan Mantri Jeevan Jyoti Bima Yojana and received claim amount of Rs 54,000 after his crop was damaged due to rains.

“It’s the small farmers who were hurt the most due to the agriculture policies of the earlier governments,” Modi said attacking the Opposition. “Farmers clearly know what those shedding fake tears and shouting loud slogans did for them when in power. Some politicians are crying over farmers losing their lands. Where were they when farmers lost their lands due to documentation issues during their regime?”

Modi said his government practiced good governance as the money is now directly transferred to the bank accounts of the farmers’ without any cut, commission or cheating.


Modi attacks Mamata Banerjee

The prime minister also took on the Mamata Banerjee-led West Bengal government for not allowing over 70 lakh farmers from the state to take benefit of the Centre’s direct money transfer scheme.

“I regret that only West Bengal farmers are deprived of this benefit,” Modi said. “The West Bengal government is not allowing the benefits to its farmers for political reasons. Political leaders rejected by the people are indulging in event management for political gains. Everybody knows how one political ideology has destroyed the state. They ran the state of West Bengal for three decades but did nothing for farmers.”

While Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee insists on central funds for farmers be sent through it, the Centre wants to transfer it to them directly.

“More than 23 lakh farmers of Bengal have applied online to take advantage of this scheme,” Modi claimed. “The same groups of politicians destroyed West Bengal, Kerala and other states. There are no APMCs [Agricultural Produce Market Committee] in Kerala, but why no protests are happening there? It is the same Bengal government that is opposing this benefit for the farmers, but goes to Punjab and support farmers’ protest.”

Modi claimed Opposition leaders are looking for opportunities for their political survival. “These leaders should not play with the lives of the farmers and must not mislead them,” he added. Those in power earlier left small farmers to fend for themselves. Promises were made, but not kept.”

He said the BJP government implemented MS Swaminathan Commission report and increased MSP. “For years earlier governments did not act on it,” Modi added. “Now farmers get record MSP.”

Union ministers allay concerns

Before Modi’s address, Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar claimed some farmers from Punjab have been misguided by vested interests. “I hope they come on the right path and abandon the ongoing protests,” he said.

The minister urged protesting farmers to continue talks with the government to resolve the deadlock.

Simultaneously, as part of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s outreach programmes, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said the government is ready to amend the farm laws if it is not beneficial after its implementation, PTI reported.

“Let farm laws be implemented for year or so; if found not beneficial for farmers, we will be ready for necessary amendments,” Singh said. “I appeal to all protesting farmers to come forward for discussions on farm laws. All problems can be resolved through dialogue. The prime minister wants talks with farmers to continue.”

The defence minister said the minimum support price system will not end, which is the rate at which the government buys farm produce. “The prime minister has said and I’ll also give my word that MSP won’t end,” he added. “It is farmers who’ve supported the country whenever it underwent economic recession and we’ve seen this many times.”

Union Home Minister Amit Shah attacked Opposition for misleading farmers regarding the MSP system. “I want to make it clear that the MSP system will remain,” he said. “The three farm laws are in the favour of the farmers. Nobody can remove MSP system or snatch farmers’ land from them. The government is ready to hold talks with farmers’ unions with an open heart.”