Addressing the nation through his monthly radio programme Mann Ki Baat, Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke about how the new farm bills would benefit the farmers and help create a self-reliant India. The new bills, passed amid unprecedented chaos in the recently concluded monsoon session of the parliament, are at the centre of nationwide protests by farmers and opposition parties.
In the 68th edition of Mann Ki Baat, PM Modi said the country's agricultural sector's resilience during the coronavirus pandemic was a reflection of its farmers' strength, the "foundation of Atma Nirbhar Bharat", or self-reliant India.
"Farmers are playing a major role in the efforts towards self-reliance. If the farmers are strong the country will be strong," the Prime Minister said.
Tweeting "Empowering India's hardworking farmers", the Prime Minister said farmers are now free to sell their produce to anyone, anywhere, and not just to the government.
"This is their strength, and this is the basis of their progress. They can now sell anything they grow in their fields, not just fruits and vegetables, but wheat, rice, sugarcane, to whoever gives them the highest price," PM Modi said while speaking about how farmers benefitted after fruits and vegetables were brought out of APMC Act in some states a few years ago.
In an apparent swipe at the Congress, which has criticized the central government's economic policies and handling of the pandemic, PM Modi said had the country followed the essence of Mahatma Gandhi's farmer-centric economic philosophy there would not have been any need for the "Aatmanirbhar Bharat" campaign as India would have become self-reliant much earlier.
Talking about various success stories of farmer groups, PM Modi also said the agriculture sector will benefit immensely with greater use of technology.
The Prime Minister started his "Mann Ki Baat" address by highlighting India's rich tradition of storytelling and its importance amid the coronavirus pandemic. He interacted with storytellers who are keeping regional folk tales alive, and are using them as a medium for education among children and healing among senior citizens.
"The world is going through great change during the coronavirus pandemic, and maintaining social distance has become important, stories are a great way to keep our families connected," the Prime Minister said.
"Highlight stories relating to the great women and men who have made India proud... It is imperative for today's students to remain familiar with them," he said noting that the country will celebrate its 75th year of independence in 2022. He exhorted students and teachers to bring to fore stories of unsung heroes of the freedom struggle.