The stage is now set for fresh talks between the Centre and leaders of farmers’ outfits on Tuesday even as more farmers from Haryana, Punjab and western UP have joined the protesters. In Varanasi, while addressing supporters on the occasion of Dev Deepawali on Monday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi slammed opposition parties for “misleading farmers”.
The Prime Minister devoted nearly 27 minutes of his speech to farmers’ issues. He said: “Farmers are being misled on the issue of new historic farm bills. These are the people who have been deceiving farmers for the last several decades. For years, they used to declare MSPs (minimum support prices) but farmers’ produce were never bought at those rates. Big farm loan waiver packages were announced but small and marginal farmers never got the benefit. They deceived farmers in the name of farm loan waivers. Big schemes for farmers were announced but they themselves admitted that only 15 paise out of a rupee reached the farmers.”
Modi said: “Huge subsidies were given in the past for urea fertilizers but most of the fertilizers landed up with black marketeers. They asked farmers to raise productivity, but they ensured profitability for others instead of farmers. This game of deceit had been going on in the country for decades. Two point are clear when there has been a long history of deceit.
“Firstly, farmers who were being deceived for decades continue to have misgivings over government’s promises. Secondly, for those who broke promises and deceived farmers, this became a habit, a sort of compulsion to ensure that the status quo remains. But if you look at the track record of our government, the truth will come out. We said, we will stop black marketing of urea and give sufficient urea to farmers, we did it. For the last six years, there has been no shortage of urea.
“Earlier, farmers used to buy urea in black, they had to spend nights in queues and were even lathi charged. Today that has stopped. Even during national lockdown due to Corona, we ensured supply of urea to farmers. We promised that according to Swaminathan Commission’s recommendations, farmers will get prices at 150 per cent of their costs. We fulfilled that promise. We ensured that the money reached the bank accounts of farmers”, Modi said.
Elaborating on how his government helped farmers, the PM said: “The previous government during five years prior to 2014, purchased only Rs 650 crore worth pulses from farmers. Only Rs 650 crores. In our five years of rule, we purchased Rs 49,000 crores worth pulses from farmers. The previous government bought Rs 2 lakh crore worth paddy from farmers in five years, we purchased Rs 5 lakh crore worth paddy in five years at MSP rates. The previous government bought Rs 1.5 lakh crore worth wheat in five years, while out government bought Rs 3 lakh crore worth wheat from farmers in five years. Just imagine, if we had wanted to abolish mandis and MSPs, why should we have given so much money? Why should we have invested so much? Our government is spending crores to modernize mandis.”
Without naming the Congress, Modi hit out at the party saying: “You must remember, these are the people who used to spread lies in streets, at press conference, and on Twitter, that Modi has brought Kisan Samman Nidhi scheme only to get farmers’ votes during elections. He will give Rs 2,000 to each farmers, but will not give any more money. They told another lie saying that once the elections are over, he will take back this money along with interest.
“You will be surprised to know, in one state, they spread so much lies that farmers started saying they will not take Rs 2,000. One state, that speaks so much about farmers, did not even implement the PM Kisan Samman Nidhi scheme out of fear that if farmers got money, they will sing praises about Modi. They did not allow farmers to get the money. I want to tell farmers of that state that whenever we form our government there, we will definitely give them their money. More than 10 crore farmers in the country are getting money directly into their accounts. We give this money to farmers thrice every year and till now Rs 1 lakh crore has reached the accounts of farmers. We had promised pension for farmers, and in a very short time, 21 lakh farmers are now part of PM Kisan Maan Dhan scheme.”
The Prime Minister said: “It is on the basis of this proven track record of fulfilling our promises that we have framed these new farm reforms laws. In the coming months, we will see how these new laws will benefit millions of farmers. I will welcome constructive debates on this in the media. I understand, farmers have been deceived for decades, and that is why they are apprehensive about these new reforms. I do not blame the farmers for this, but I want to tell my farmer brothers and sisters from the sacred ghats of the holy city of Kashi that our intention is as pious as the water of Ma Ganga.”
Modi said: “The truth about those spreading misgivings based on apprehensions is coming out. When farmers catch them lying, they come out with another lie. They are doing this round-the-clock, 24x7. The families of farmers who are still apprehensive (about new laws) are being convinced by the government, which is trying its best to arrive at a solution. With the blessings of Ma Annapurna, out annadatas (farmers) will spearhead India’s aim of ‘atmanirbharta’ (self-reliance). I believe the day will come when the farmers, who are protesting now, will get the full benefits from these agricultural reforms and raise their earnings.”
Many of the farmers who are sitting on dharna at Delhi border since last several days have watched the Prime Minister speaking on their issues. Spending wintry nights on the highway inside trucks, trailers and on tractors, is not an easy job. The agitating farmers are cooking food on the roadside and having their meals collectively in ‘langars’. This is really unfortunate. I feel that there is nothing anti-farmer in the new farm laws, but there appears to be a huge communication gap. There has been lack of proper communication with the farmers for the last several months. If there are questions and misgivings in the minds of farmers, they must get the answers from the government.
The Prime Minister tried his best to remove the misgivings of farmers in his speech. It was a good initiative and he has clarified on most of the issues. Modi has promised that mandis will not be abolished, MSPs will stay, farmers will be free to sell their produce to those who offer better prices, traders or corporates cannot buy the farmer’s land nor can they take it on lease, they cannot take control of his land, the agreement will only relate to purchase of crop, and if, at any point of time, the farmer feels that he is not getting the right price, he can walk out of the agreement and he will not be fined. If any trader or corporate deceived a farmer, does not make full payment, the farmer can take legal assistance. I think these should be sufficient to remove misgivings from the minds of farmers.
The farmers are insisting that the government must incorporate in its new laws that MSPs will not be abolished, and that purchase of crops at price lesser than the MSP will legally be a crime. The government can try its best to convince the farmer leaders, but what about those who have come with a political agenda? Some of the opposition parties are openly training their guns from the shoulders of agitating farmers. Farmers should trust Modi. They should talk to the government for a peaceful solution to the current stalemate.
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