Asserting that India could no longer be content with status-quoist policies in agriculture and other sectors that are in desperate need of reforms, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday said the small farmers in the country would get access to the ‘big markets’ of agriculture produce, thanks to the new laws. Even as he repeated the offer for dialogue on any specific concerns the agitating farmers might have with regard to the laws, Modi hit out at the Opposition for seeking to make political capital out of the situation.
He also drew a distinction between the farmers’ “pavitra andolan” (pure protest) and the ‘andolan jeevis’, who he believes, were misleading and exploiting them.
He said that the positive outcomes of the farm laws have already become visible, adding that the laws merely multiplied the market options for farmers, without endangering the existing mandi set-up in any manner. “After the laws came into effect, no mandi has shut. Procurement at MSP has not only remained, but has been stepped up,” Modi said in the Lok Sabha.
“The government and Parliament have great respect for farmers,” Modi said and made it clear that those who want to continue with the old agriculture marketing system can continue doing so.
Dwelling upon the reasons for the low income levels in the agriculture sector and the travails of the small farmers which led to a shift away from agriculture as a livelihood option over decades, the PM said, “we have to prepare our farmers for the long haul.” He stressed that the new laws would encourage development of agri-based industries and greater investments in the agriculture value chain, boosting employment.
Modi’s remarks came amid repeated interruptions of his speech by the Opposition and a subsequent walkout by members of the Congress in the lower house, including former party chief Rahul Gandhi. Modi was speaking on the three farm laws during his reply to the debate on the motion of thanks to the President for his address to both houses of Parliament.
During his over 90-minute address, the Prime Minister slammed the Congress as “divided and confused party” for its allegedly different stands in Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha on he debate.
According to the prime minister, the post-Covid world was turning out to be very different and a new world order was emerging, as happened after the Second World War. “In such times, remaining isolated from the global trends will be counter-productive.” He said the JAM ( Jan Dhan-Aadhaar-Mobile) trinity made a positive difference in people’s lives, helped the poorest of the poor, the marginalised and the downtrodden with the transfer of over Rs 2 lakh crore to the bank accounts of the beneficiaries.
On Monday, while speaking in the Upper House, Modi had slammed the Opposition for its ‘sudden U-turn’ on agriculture-sector reforms they had once advocated. He made an impassioned plea to the agitating farmers to give the new laws ‘a chance’ and urged them to end their two-and-a-half-month-long agitation. “We will find a solution together…all the doors are open for dialogue.”
Denouncing those who call the agitating Sikh farmers “Khalistani” terrorists and other names, the Prime Minister said the nation was proud of every Sikh. He, however, put the blame on a mushrooming new breed of “andolan-jeevi” — professional protesters — “parasites who feast on every agitation” for the current impasse. These remarks had fuelled reactions from the Opposition, which sought to highlight the role of andolans (people’s movements) in the development of the nation and deepening of democracy.
(With PTI inputs)