‘Don’t be fooled’: Modi leads the government’s mega farmers outreach
Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Friday that his government was open to talks as long as they relied on “tark” and “tathya” (arguments and facts), while blaming opposition parties for misleading farmers about three new laws. agriculture for their “political agenda.” ”.
Modi staunchly defended his land reform agenda, which he said was necessary to “modernize” the agrarian sector.
On the occasion of the birth anniversary of former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, the Prime Minister published the last tranche of the year of PM-KISAN, the direct income transfer scheme initiated by his government for farmers, which makes payments worth 18,000 million rupees to 90 million farmers. Under the program, farmers receive income support of Rs 6,000 per year, paid in three equal cash transfers of Rs 2,000, one every four months.
“I bow down to the farmers. Most of them have supported the laws. I will never allow the interests of farmers to be compromised at any cost, ”Modi said.
“We have brought changes to benefit farmers. We do not claim to have all the knowledge and only we know the best. But at least there should be conversations. I humbly ask everyone, even those who oppose our policy, to be ready for talks, but the talks must be based on ‘tark’ and ‘tathya’ (arguments and facts).
He added: “The country must modernize the agricultural sector and prepare for the challenges of agriculture in the 21st century.”
Before a 51-minute virtual speech to farmers, the prime minister spoke with farmers from six states via video conferencing, interactions geared toward showcasing the achievements of farmers who have embraced the new business models unleashed by recent agricultural reforms.
For nearly a month, farmers from Punjab, Haryana and other parts of northern India have camped on the Delhi borders to pressure the government to repeal laws they fear will weaken their bargaining power and leave them at the mercy of powerful agribusinesses. Six rounds of talks between the government and the agricultural unions failed to break the deadlock.
In his speech, Modi framed the ongoing unrest as a political “event,” in which his opponents were instigating “innocent farmers” with falsehoods. “I do not blame the farmers, but those who deceive them.”
Modi accused the Opposition of politicking, and said that although at first the issues raised were genuine, such as that of minimum support prices (MSP), the protests were “hijacked” by those with a political agenda. “The MSP was put aside and now they are demanding the release from jail of those accused of violence … They want toll-free roads … Why have they gone from farmers’ problems to new demands?” I ask.
“The Opposition is misleading the farmers regarding the MSP. If farmers want to sell in MSP, they can go mandis. If they think they are getting prices from private traders, they are free, ”Modi said, emphasizing that farmers will continue to get guaranteed prices under his government.
He said that some people were promoting their “political goals and ideologies” through farmers’ protests.
“The people (politicians and activists who oppose the laws) who are talking about mandis, the agricultural products market committees (APMC) are the ones that destroyed West Bengal, Kerala. There are no APMC or mandi in Kerala. So why are there no protests in Kerala? Why don’t you start a movement there? “Both Bengal and Kerala are ruled by parties that are opposed to Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
The agricultural unions criticized the speech and accused the prime minister of trying to divide the farmers. “It was targeted at farmers in just six states. Not once did he address protesting farmers. It is your prerogative to decide who you want to represent as prime minister. His speech was a fusion of fake, fabricated and fake news, ”said Avik Saha of the Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee for All India.
The opposition parties accused Modi of not meeting the farmers’ demands.
“The prime minister is giving clarifications on television and his ministers are offering excuses through letters, but the fact is that he is engaged in the servility of a handful of crony capitalists,” said congressional spokesman Randeep Surjewala.
Modi launched a strong attack on the West Bengal government led by Mamata Banerjee for “being the only state” that did not implement the PM-KISAN scheme. “I regret that while all farmers receive it (cash aid), only the West Bengal government has deprived 70 lakhs of farmers. They are not benefiting because the West Bengal government for political reasons is depriving them. It is a central scheme, it is free for the state government ”.
The West Bengal government does not implement the cash transfer plan launched by Modi on February 24, 2019. It has said that it prefers to run its own income support plan for farmers.
“Instead of protesting the West Bengal government for not implementing the PM-KISAN scheme, some Bengal people are protesting in Punjab (against agricultural laws),” Modi said.
Assembly elections in West Bengal are due to take place in April-May next year and the BJP is seeking to overthrow the Trinamool Congress led by Mamata Banerjee.
The prime minister also took on the Communist Party of India (Marxist), which ruled Bengal for three decades. “If you listen to a 15-year-old speech by Mamata ji, then you will know how much this ideology has ruined Bengal,” he said.
“For the Opposition, the ongoing protests by farmers is an event management, a selfie moment,” Modi said.
The prime minister’s virtual interaction with farmers, which was broadcast nationally in the panchayat offices, served as a platform to highlight the promises of a new agricultural economy that the laws are intended to build.
“I have sold 85 quintals of soybeans to ITC Ltd. They evaluate the quality of the product in front of us and pay us accordingly on the same day. If there are impurities or excess moisture, the company tells us to sort and classify the products before selling them, ”Manoj Patedar, a farmer from MP, told the PM.
Gagan Pering from Arunachal Pradesh said that he sold his products through contract farming. In response, the prime minister scoffed at protesters’ claim that the new laws would allow corporations to seize land from small farmers.
“Okay, so the buyer took your product. Did he also take your land? Some people are saying that the new laws will allow merchants to take away their land as well, ”said the prime minister.
Analysts said Modi’s speech astutely avoided implicating the farming community, an influential bloc of voters, while blaming political opponents. “He has tried to present it as a political battle, not a battle for livelihoods and the economics of agriculture. He avoided blaming the farmers. That is the strategy that the government seems to have adopted to deal with the protests, ”said Abhinav Barbora, a political analyst at Silchar University.