Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday reached out to the farmers protesting against the new agriculture laws as he promised in no uncertain terms that the Minimum Support Price (MSP) regime will remain in place, addressing their fears that the new reforms would lead to the end of MSP.
“MSP was there. MSP is there. MSP will remain in the future,” the Prime Minister declared during his speech in Parliament, removing all doubts about the future of the scheme that guarantees farmers a predetermined price delinked from market rates for specific crops, thereby subsidising them.
In his over hour-long address, the PM spoke at length about the need for reforms in the farm sector while making it amply clear that the government will not back down and agree to repeal of the three legislations.
He addressed some of the criticisms aimed at the new laws, assured that the government is still open to dialogue and constructive suggestions, and appealed to agitating farmers, especially seniors, camped at Delhi’s borders to end their stir.
Modi stressed that the need of the hour was to improve the lives of farmers, and pointed out that all previous governments had agreed on the need for reforms, but now that they sit in Opposition, they have reversed course to piggyback on the agitation and target his government.
He cited the example of the Manmohan Singh government, and said that the Congress, which has supported the agitation, should at least listen to what the former PM had to say on farm reforms.
“Manmohan ji is here, I'd read out his quote. Those taking a U-Turn (farm laws) will perhaps agree with him. ‘There are other rigidities because of marketing regime set up in 1930s which prevent our farmers from selling their produce where they get highest rate of return... It is our intention to remove all those handicaps which come in the way of India realising its vast potential at one large common market’,” Modi said.
The PM said various steps taken by other governments have failed to improve the lives of farmers. “Farm loan waivers do not benefit small farmers,” said the PM, as he listed initiatives his government has taken since 2014.
“Since 2014 we have initiated changes in the agriculture sector aimed at empowering the farmer. The crop insurance scheme was changed to make it more farmer-friendly. The PM-KISAN scheme was also brought in. We are working for small farmers,” the PM said, adding that there were also other schemes to improve road connectivity, which enables the produce of the farmers to reach distant places. “There are efforts like Kisan Rail too,” he said.