“We have given the best alternatives to farmers to sell their crops through these laws. What is wrong if farmers have so many options (to sell their produce)? Some are spreading the canard that the existing mandis will be closed. Have you heard of closure of any mandi in a any place?” he asked.
Modi said: “Some parties pushing their political agenda by opposing the new farm laws. Some people are spreading the lie that farmers’ lands will be taken away if they enter into contract farming agreements.”
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday strongly defended the new farm laws over which a section of farmer community has been protesting at the national capital borders for a month, and asserted the new pieces of legislation would unshackle Indian agriculture and enable ‘Brand India’ to establish itself in the global agricultural markets.
“We have given the best alternatives to farmers to sell their crops through these laws. What is wrong if farmers have so many options (to sell their produce)? Some are spreading the canard that the existing mandis will be closed. Have you heard of closure of any mandi in a any place?” he asked. He also highlighted that the Centre has purchased record quantity of grain after these laws came into force.
Interacting virtually with farmers from seven states on the occasion of release of the third instalment of money transfers under the PM-Kisan income-support scheme, Modi said: “Some parties pushing their political agenda by opposing the new farm laws. Some people are spreading the lie that farmers’ lands will be taken away if they enter into contract farming agreements.”
Meanwhile, farmer unions will meet on Saturday to decide how and when they will respond to the Centre’s latest offer for talks to resolve the stand-off. The government had earlier written to agitating farmer organisations, indicating, for the first time, its readiness to discuss providing a legal backing to the minimum support price (MSP).
The agriculture ministry wrote: “Raising a new demand (statutory MSP) and its inclusion in the talks does not look logical. Still, the government is ready to discuss all issues raised by you”.
While it is not immediately clear what the government has on its mind, a legal MSP (which potentially means the government will have to pitch in, if and when private buyers of crops don’t pay the MSP to farmers), if implemented, could jack up the government’s subsidy budget to astronomical levels.
In view of the ongoing farmers’ protest, the Centre has made elaborate arrangements to reach out to farmers across the country by roping in elected representatives of the BJP to organise public gatherings where people could watch the message of the Prime Minister. Some 8.02 crore farmers had registered to listen to Modi’s address, agriculture minister Narendra Singh Tomar said.
After interacting with seven farmers from Arunachal Pradesh, Odisha, Haryana, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh, Modi traced the current reforms to former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s tenure and said these laws have opened more options for the farmers to sell their crops through FPOs, to exporters or online platforms.
In the current paddy procurement season (October-September), the government has bought over 436 lakh tonne of the cereal until December 23, up by 24% from the year-ago period. At 203 lakh tonne, Punjab has contributed more than 46% to the paddy purchased for the Central pool.
Citing the example of people already getting benefits from the laws by receiving payment in time to contracting to sell crops at higher prices, Modi also assured farmers that there was no fear of anyone taking over farmers’ land because of the contract. He asked a farmer of Uttar Pradesh, who has entered into contract with a company, whether there was any fear about losing the agricultural land to which the farmer replied in the negative.
Modi also stressed that the buyer would have to pay even in case of damage to the crops once he entered into a contract with a farmer. Modi also took the opportunity to take a snipe at both Mamata Banerjee and the Left parties, given the context of the Assembly polls in West Bengal and Kerala, slated for March-April next year. He said the (Left) parties did not protest against Mamata on the issue of the state’s refusal to implement PM-Kisan, which could have benefited an estimated 70 lakh farmers. He also asked them why they (Left parties) are not opening APMC mandis in Kerala if that was so good as they claim and about which they are concerned about in Punjab.
“You would have seen that when the agitation started their demand was about MSP guarantee. They had genuine issues. But then those with political ideology took over,” Modi said. “MSP etc were pushed aside and now what is happening? They are demanding release from jail of those accused of violence…They want highways toll-free. Why have they shifted from farmer’s issues to new demands?” he asked.
Even as Modi took on the Opposition, a day after the Congress met the President seeking repeal of the three farm laws, his colleague, defence minister Rajnath Singh, tried to placate the protesting farmers by addressing them as “his own” people. Addressing a rally at Dwarka in the national capital, Singh said: “Those who are sitting on dharna are farmers and are born to farmers’ families. We have a lot of respect for them…Let farm laws be implemented for a year or two. Let’s try this as an experiment, and if found not beneficial for farmers, the government will be ready for all possible amendments.”
Separately, home minister Amit Shah asserted that no corporate can snatch away any farmer’s land as long as Modi is the PM and the provision of MSP will continue while mandis will not be shut down. Addressing a gathering in Kishangarh village in the national capital, Shah said if farmer organisations felt that any provision of the three new farm laws is against their interests, the government was ready to discuss and consider the same with an open mind.