PM defends farm laws, blasts opposition for misleading farmers

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(Eds: recasting) Bhopal, Dec 18 (PTI) Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday stoutly defended the new farm laws, saying they were in the works for decades and those who are opposing these laws now for gaining lost political ground were once votaries of the same reforms.

The opposition parties were against the new laws as they were upset that he would get the credit, Modi said, adding that he did not seek any credit but nobody should mislead farmers.

Accusations such as the new laws will lead to the scrapping of Minimum Support Price (MSP) for crops were blatant lies, the prime minister said, addressing farmers of Madhya Pradesh through virtual mode.

The government was willing to hold talks with farmers, the prime minister said, as the agitation against the new farm laws at Delhi's borders entered its 23rd day.

'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 said.

'The new agriculture laws have not been drafted overnight but political parties, agriculture experts and progressive farmers have demanded it for a long time,' Modi said.

Farming in India should get modernized in the changed global situation, he added, defending the contentious laws.

'In the last 20-22 years, the Center and the state governments have deliberated on these agriculture reforms in detail. Farmer bodies, agriculture scientists and farmers too were continuously demanding them,' he said.

Farmers should ask the parties which are opposing the new laws why they advocated and promised similar measures in their election manifestos but never implemented them, Modi said.

They dithered because 'it was not their priority', the prime minister alleged.

' I feel that they are in pain because what they could not do, Modi has done. They do not want Modi to get credit for it. Give credit to your manifesto and not to me. I just want the progress of farmers, but stop misleading them on the issue,' he said.

'We are asking them again and again to point out problems in the new farm laws, but they don't have any answer.

Those who have lost their political space in the country are misleading farmers that they will lose their lands,' he said.

When these parties were in power, they sat on the Swaminathan committee's report on the farm sector as they did not want to give farmers higher MSP (which the report had recommended), Modi said, targeting the Congress.

'In the changed global scenario, this should not be accepted. The things (reform) which should have taken place 25 to 30 years ago have been done now. We have already been late,' he added.

His government implemented the Swaminathan committee report and gave MSP of 1.5 times the cost of production, Modi noted.

He also accused the Congress of not fulfilling its promise of loan waiver for farmers in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh.

As to the fear that MSP for crops will be done away with, the prime minister said, 'Our government is so serious about MSP that it announces it for crops even before sowing.' In the six months since the farm laws were implemented, crops were purchased across the country at MSP amid the coronavirus pandemic, he pointed out.

'No sane person will accept that MSP will be scrapped.

Nothing will be a bigger lie and conspiracy than this,' Modi said, assuring that MSP for crops will continue.

Those opposing the farm laws were also spreading lies about Agricultural Produce Market Committees (APMCs), the prime minister said, adding that farmers are free to sell the produce in the existing APMC mandis.

'Not a single mandi was closed in the last six months.

In fact, the government is spending Rs 500 crore on their modernization,' the prime minister said.

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 farmer even if they suffer a loss, Modi said.

He will address the farmers again on December 25 on the issue, the PM said. PTI LAL MAS RSY KRK KRK KRK