Prime Minister Narendra Modi has once again stressed the importance of his government’s farm sector laws that have had the farmers worried about the likely adverse impact and the entry of the private sector.
The farmers have been demanding repeal of the laws for the last 20 days.
On a day-long visit to Kutch in his home State Gujarat, Mr. Modi said “farmers were being misguided” by the Opposition and a few others. He assured the farmers that their concerns were being addressed by his government, which accorded top priority to their interests.
“The agriculture reforms that have taken place are exactly what farmer bodies and even the Opposition have been asking for years,” the Prime Minister said, as he hinted that there was no going back on them as thousands of farmers protesting outside the national capital have been demanding.
“The government of India is always committed to the welfare of the farmers and we will keep addressing their concerns,” Mr. Modi said at a ceremony to lay the foundation for development projects in Kutch. He used the opportunity to interact with a group of Sikh farmers who have settled in Gujarat for decades.
“People who are sitting in the Opposition and misleading farmers today were in favour of these farm reforms when they were in the government. They could not take a decision then, and today, when the nation has taken a historic step, these people are misleading the farmers.”
To convince the farmers about the benefits the agriculture reforms would bring to them, the Prime Minister used the example of Gujarat where many farm-friendly schemes were introduced during his tenure as the Chief Minister which minimised government intervention in agriculture. He said dairy and fishery flourished in Gujarat without government intervention.
“I want to ask you, did the dairy owner take your animal because you are selling milk to him? Has anyone taken your land or property for entering into a contract to sell your fruits and vegetables?” the Prime Minister said. “The country is asking why the freedom enjoyed by dairy farmers is not being provided to small and marginal farmers growing cereals and lentils.”
The Centre has held several rounds of talks with the representatives of farmers without much success, as over 30 farmers’ unions have intensified their protests insisting on the repeal of the laws. They have even rejected the government’s promise to amend them. Foremost among their concerns is that the new laws would pave the way for the elimination of the Minimum Support Price (MSP) and do away with the mandis, leaving them at the mercy of private sector players and corporates.