Prime Minister Narendra Modi, strongly defending farm laws that have triggered massive protests near Delhi, said today he was ready "with folded hands" to discuss every issue with farmers and allay their fear. He also said any talk about the new laws doing away with MSP or Minimum Support Price for crops "is the biggest lie ever".
"If anyone has any concerns, then with our heads bowed and our hands folded, with humility, we are willing to discuss with them and assuage their fears," PM Modi said, addressing farmers in Madhya Pradesh via video as part of the government's redoubled efforts to reach out to farmers.
The Prime Minister also said though agricultural reforms were discussed for over two decades by every government, the opposition was misleading farmers.
"These laws were not brought in overnight. In past 22 years, every government, state has discussed these in detail. Farmer groups, agricultural experts, economists, scientists and progressive farmers, have called for reforms. Parties opposing these laws today promised these reforms in their manifestos," said the PM.
"These parties are pained today. They are asking themselves how Modi could achieve what they couldn't do in all this time. They are worried Modi will get credit. My reply to them is - you keep the credit. I don't want credit. I only want farmers' lives to improve. Stop misleading farmers."
The Prime Minister has, in most of his recent speeches, segued to the farmer crisis and sought to explain that the laws brought by his government are for their good. But in today's event, he addressed the farmers directly as part of the government's big outreach amid protests on highways near Delhi by thousands of farmers. Many senior ministers are part of this outreach.
Emphasizing on the need for reforms, PM Modi said Indian farmers must not lag behind the world in facilities.
"Today I want to expose those who have absolutely no care or genuine concern for you - our anna-daata (farmers). I want to caution all those who are being misled and instigated in the name of these farm laws," the Prime Minister said.
He referred to the Congress promise during the 2018 polls in states like Madhya Pradesh, to waive farm loans. "What loud promises were made before the Madhya Pradesh elections. They said if they win, they will write off all the farm loans for every farmer in the state within 10 days. They do nothing but lie and try to use you with promises or by playing on your fears," he said.
"These people are used to lying, they use you for votes."
The PM cited a report by the MS Swaminathan Commission on agricultural reforms as the biggest proof of "how ruthless" Congress governments had been. "These people sat on the Swaminathan Commission report recommendations for eight long years...They ensured that their government doesn't have to spend much on farmers, so they kept the report under wraps," said PM Modi.
"Today, I want to bring their deeds in front of countrymen and farmers. I assure every farmer of the country that like MSP was given earlier, it will continue to be given, MSP will not be ended. Those who could not give MSP to farmers, they are misleading farmers over MSP."
The farmers have refused to call off their protests unless the government withdraws the laws, which they fear will take away their assured minimum earnings and leave them open to exploitation by corporates. The government, however, says the laws allow farmers to sell their produce anywhere in the country.
"In the new farm laws, the centre has only stated that whether the farmer sells his produce in the market or outside, it will be his will," PM Modi said, adding that not a single market has been closed after the new laws were enacted.