- PM Modi urged farmers to call off their agitation against agri laws
- Minimum Support Price will remain, he said
- We need to give these reforms a chance, he added
Prime Minister Narendra Modi today urged farmers to end their protests since November against three laws, assuring that the system of MSP or Minimum Support Prices would remain in place. He also referenced his predecessor Manmohan Singh as he derided what he called the Congress's "u-turn" on farm reforms.
"End your protests and we will all sit together and talk. We are ready for talks and I am inviting you again for dialogue from this House," PM Modi said in the Rajya Sabha, in his reply to a debate on the President's Budget session speech.
"MSP tha, MSP hai aur MSP rahega (Minimum Support Price will remain). No one should spread misinformation," he asserted, adding, however, that he was willing to take the brunt if it meant pushing reforms that were long overdue.
"We need to move forward, not backward. We need to give these reforms a chance."
Thousands of farmers have been protesting on highways outside Delhi for over two months against new laws that they fear will replace the MSP system and leave them at the mercy of corporates.
PM Modi, defending the laws and various steps taken criticized opposition parties for what he called their silence on the core issues linked to the farmer protests.
The number of marginal farmers with small land holdings, he said, had increased since 1971 from 51 per cent to 68 per cent. "Today, there are 86 per cent farmers who have less than two hectares of land. That means 12 crore farmers. Doesn't the country have any responsibility towards these farmers?"
Every government had spoken in favour of reforms in the agriculture sector but parties had now taken a "u-turn", said the Prime Minister, apparently referring to the Congress as well as its ally Sharad Pawar, who was Agriculture Minister during the Congress-led UPA rule.
"It's fine that you (opposition) are attacking the government on the protests but you should have also told the farmers that change is necessary for development."
He quoted former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, commenting that "at least they (opposition) will listen to him if not me" on reforms.
"Manmohan ji is here, I will read his quote - 'There are other rigidities because of marketing regime set up in the 1930s which prevent our farmers from selling their produce where they get the highest rate of return. It is our intention to remove all those handicaps wihich come in the way of India realizing its vast potential as one large common market'," the PM quoted Manmohan Singh as saying, and added: "Manmohan Singh Ji had made his intentions clear, to give farmers the freedom to sell their produce, and have just one market. And we are doing it now. "
He quipped at the Congress: "You should be proud - Manmohan Singh talked about it but Modi is having to do it now. Be proud."