"New Laws Don't Stop Old System": PM Defends Reforms Amid Farmer Protest

In his address at a virtual event, PM Modi pointed out the advantages of the new laws, saying they are giving better access to markets -- both national and international.

The reforms have given farmers new options and safeguards, PM Modi said

Lucknow:

Prime Minister Narendra Modi today spoke in defense of the farm laws again as his ministers rushed to discuss the mammoth protest against the new laws, which is threatening to cut off the roads to the national capital. Camping at Delhi borders, the farmers, angry over Union Home Minister Amit Shah's conditional proposal for early talks, have spoken of a gherao of the city. Over the last 24 hours, Mr Shah has held a series of meetings with his cabinet colleagues.

Reaching out to farmers -- who have accused the government of making the new laws for the benefit of corporates -- PM Modi said: "I know that decades of falsehood do put apprehensions in the minds of farmers,,,  I want to say this from the bank of Mother Ganga - we are not working with the intention of deceiving. Our intentions are as holy as the water of river Ganga".

"If someone thinks that the earlier system is better, how is this law stopping anyone, bhai?" he added, in a bid to reassure farmers that the new open market system will not mean the end to the traditional mandis and minimum support prices fixed by the government.

Yesterday, at a media conference, the farmers had scoffed at the government's "One Nation One market" pitch for the farm laws, saying by a 1977 rule made by the then Janata Party government, farmers have been able to sell their produce anywhere in the country.

"Just to keep corporates happy, they have done this... They could not find any logic so they said they have made 'One nation One Market'," a farmer leader had said.

The reforms have given farmers new options and safeguards, the Prime Minister said at an address at an event in his home constituency, Varanasi. They are giving farmers better access to markets -- both national and international.

"India's farm produce is famous across the world. This big market and more money -- shouldn't they (the farmers) have this in reach?" he said.

PM Modi had spoken in favour of the farm laws at his monthly radio address Mann ki Baat yesterday too, saying I had met the long-standing demands of farmers. But that had irked the farm leaders, who asked the government to name the farmer who asked for such laws.

The protesters - who braved water cannons, tear gas and police barricades through the last week to reach Delhi -- have threatened to block the roads to Delhi from five entry points: Sonipat, Rohtak, Jaipur, Ghaziabad-Hapur, and Mathura.

For nearly three months, the farmers have been on the warpath over the farm laws, which the government said will do away with middlemen and improve farmers' earnings by allowing them to sell produce anywhere in the country.

The farmers are apprehensive that the new laws will deprive them of the guaranteed minimum prices fixed for their produce by the government and leave them at the mercy of corporates.