A day after key ally Akali Dal pulled out its only minister from his government over farm bills, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said “misinformation was being spread” that farmers would be shortchanged.
“Misinformation is being spread that farmers won’t get right prices. They are forgetting how aware the country’s farmers are,” PM Modi said via video-conference after the launch of a railway bridge on river Koshi in Bihar. The Prime Minister devoted a major part of his speech to tackling criticism over the farm bills and attacking the opposition, especially the Congress.
“Fake news is being spread that wheat and rice etc will not be procured by government agencies from farmers. This is an absolute lie, completely wrong and an attempt to deceive farmers,” he said forcefully.
“I appeal to all farmers across the country to beware about all those who are raising a false alarm about farm issues. And so I say this again – beware of all those who are trying to misguide you and instigate you. All they want to do is keep you in your misery and exploit the old system. These people, who have been in power for decades and have spoken so much about farmers and farm issues have done nothing.”
The government is “committed to help farmers get right prices through Minimum Support Price,” the Prime Minister said, tackling massive protests and opposition attacks over three farm bills that were passed in the Lok Sabha on Thursday.
“Farmers are watching that some people are hating the new opportunities they are getting. Farmers are watching who are standing with middlemen,” the PM said, calling the government’s farm legislation “historic” and a protection for farmers.
Union Minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal quit the cabinet over the bills, which, the Akali Dal says, are anti-farmer. The Akali Dal, one of the ruling BJP’s oldest allies, has also said it will review ties over the farm measures that have triggered huge protests in Punjab by farmers, their core constituency.
“I said government should bring the bills after consultation with stakeholders, what is politics in this? Farmers are agitating not only in Punjab but also in Haryana, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra. There is opposition in south India,” Harsimrat Kaur said today.
BJP’s Haryana ally Dushyant Chautala is also under pressure to take a stand like the Akalis in Punjab.
The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill and the Farmers Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill were passed in the Lok Sabha yesterday and will next be introduced in the Rajya Sabha.
The government says the proposed laws are meant to help small and marginal farmers. The bills seek to empower farmers through written agreements for the supply of farm produce. Farmers can sell their produce at competitive prices anywhere in the country, the government says.
The bills have stirred protests because farmers fear they will no longer get paid at the Minimum Support Price and commission agents fear they will be hit. Opposition parties the bills are “anti-farmer” as the agriculture sector will be left to the fate of corporate interests. States like Punjab and Haryana also fear losing revenue because they cannot collect “Mandi fees” if farmers can sell their produce anywhere and not just to central procurement agencies.