Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday slammed those calling agitating Sikh farmers names, saying it won't do the country any good as he went on to appeal to the protesting farmers to withdraw their over two-month-long stir and give the new agriculture reform laws a chance. He also slammed the politics over the farm laws, saying opposition parties were mum over the reasons for the agitation.
Punning on the term FDI, which stands for Foreign Direct Investment, Modi said a new thing of FDI has emerged in India, which he said was Foreign Destructive Ideology. "We need to be more aware to save the country from such an ideology," he said while replying to a discussion in Rajya Sabha on a motion thanking the President for his address to the joint sitting of Parliament at the start of the Budget session.
He also slammed the mushrooming of a new breed of 'andolan-jivi' -- professional protestors -- who can be seen at every agitation. These "parasites feast on every agitation." In an oblique reference to agitating Sikhs being called 'Khalistani' terrorists and other names, the prime minister said the nation was proud of every Sikh. "India is very proud of the contribution of Sikhs. This is a community that has done so much for the nation. The words and blessings of the Guru Sahibs are precious," he said. "Language used by some for them and attempt to mislead them will never benefit the nation." Farmers from Punjab and other northern states have been protesting at the borders of the national capital for over two months against the three new farm reform bills that they fear will end the current practice of the government buying their produce like wheat and paddy at a Minimum Support Price or MSP.
"We mustn't forget what happened with Punjab. It suffered the most during partition. It cried the most during the 1984 riots. They became victims of the most painful incidents. Innocents were killed in Jammu and Kashmir. And the business of weapons was carried out in the northeast. All this affected the nation," he said. Modi vehemently denied that the laws will end MSP or the mandi system of crop procurement.
"I assure you that mandis will be modernised. Not just this, MSP was there, it is there and will remain. Cheap ration given to over 80 crore people will continue. Please do not try to spread misinformation. We also need to strengthen means to increase the incomes of farmers," he said. Reeling out statistics, the prime minister said over two-third of farmers have small landholdings and the new laws give them the freedom to sell their produce anywhere, helping to realise the best prices.
Modi also criticised the opposition for not listing out the reasons that prompted the stir against the farm laws. These laws, he said, addressed the root cause of the agrarian problem and are aimed at helping small farmers.
The opposition parties too advocated farm reforms, he said citing a statement by his predecessor Manmohan Singh on the need to reform the procurement system. The prime minister asked the farmers to end the agitation saying the government is ready for talks.
"I invite you to come forward and solve the problems of the agriculture sector by making those protesting against the laws understand the reforms... Let's move forward together," he said. He said the agriculture minister has been holding constant dialogues with farmers and has held several meetings with them and there is no tension yet as both sides are trying to understand each other.
"We urge those sitting on the agitation that even though it is their right to agitate, the manner in which the old people are sitting there is not right. They (agitators) should be taken back. They should end the agitation and we will together find a solution as all doors are open for dialogue. From this House, I again invite them for dialogue," he said while appealing to farmers to end their agitation. "We should move forward and not take the country behind. All the opposition and the government and protesters should give these reforms a chance and see if this change helps them. We are ready to remove shortcomings," he said.
The prime minister admitted that there were problems in the agriculture sector and said everyone together has to find a solution to them. "I feel time cannot wait. Every law requires reforms as we are not ones living in a static state. We should all move together with good reforms," he said.
Further, the prime minister said that during the COVID-19 pandemic, there were efforts to challenge the nation's borders but the trained and brave soldiers gave them a befitting reply and every India should be proud of this. He said that India has a clear view on the situation on LAC (Line of Actual Control) and there would be no laxity in developing border infrastructure.
He also lauded Leader of Opposition and Congress veteran Ghulam Nabi Azad for praising the Centre for holding local bodies elections in Jammu & Kashmir. Modi hoped that people in the Congress party would take his praise of the government in the right spirit and would not see it as "advice of G-23", in an apparent reference to a letter written to the Congress interim President Sonia Gandhi by 23 senior party members, including Azad.
All the amendments moved by the opposition to the President's Address , including mention of repeal of farm laws, were negated.