Updated: February 11, 2021 7:57:40 am
The Government and Parliament respect the farmers voicing their views on the three farm laws, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said Wednesday, as he strongly defended the need for reform and change.
Saying that the old agriculture marketing system will continue and those who don’t want the new system can continue with the old, Modi said the “Kisan Andolan” and andolankari were pavitra (pure). But “andolanjeevi” — a controversial term he used in his Rajya Sabha address to describe the “habitual protester” — had hijacked the protests, he said, by waving photos of those jailed for serious offences and asking for their release.
Some farmer unions had distanced themselves from one of the groups, Bharatiya Kisan Union (Ekta Ugrahan), whose members, on December 10, marched with posters of activists arrested in the Bhima Koregaon case and demanded their release.
Replying in the Lok Sabha to the discussion on the motion of thanks to the President’s address, Modi said: “Not allowing toll plazas to work, destroying telecom towers — does it serve a pavitra andolan?”
“I am surprised for the first time a new argument has come — we did not ask, so why did you give?” Modi said. “Be it issue of dowry or triple talaq, no one had demanded laws to deal with them but the laws were made as they were necessary for progressive society.”
He said that forward-looking governments should not wait for people to demand such measures – this, he said, happens in feudal societies.
As Congress members interrupted his speech, the Prime Minister said it was a “well-designed attempt” to ensure that farmers don’t get to know the “truth” about the laws. “No matter how much you try to sabotage it, you will fail to do so, because the truth is out there…” he said.
This provoked the Congress members to walk out. Others, including DMK, NCP or TMC did not join them. Later, TMC and DMK walked out separately.
As the Congress MPs walked out, Modi hit out at the party. “The Congress today is confused and divided…Such a confused party cannot help the country or anyone… You want to shout inside Parliament, just as you do outside, then please go ahead, but hiding behind lies will never get you anywhere.”
“I am someone who has done away with 1500 obsolete laws,” he said. “I do believe in progressive policies…some people are like – na kheloonga, na khelne doonga, main khel ko bigad ke rakhoonga(I will not play, I will not let anyone play and I will see that the game is spoiled). He named Sharad Pawar for backing the bill during the UPA regime and opposing it now.
“If anyone can point out and convince me there are provisions in these bills that would harm farmers, I am ready to change them,” he said.
Pointing out that the laws were in place since the ordinances came in June, he said no farmer could complain that the existing system has changed. “What deterioration has occurred in any facilities (the) farmers have been enjoying? This is just another option. They are not binding… Why are you opposing another option? These laws will not ban any existing mandis nor will they discontinue the MSP. We are just modernising the mandis,” the Prime Minister said.
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Acknowledging that change could trigger “doubts” and opposition, he said there will always be a section that is inconvenienced by change but decisions have to be taken in the “larger interest.”
“Germs grow in stagnant water but flowing waters stay fresh. We should not remain stagnant,” he said. Modi argued that small farmers, who constitute 82-85 per cent of the farming community, cannot be ignored. “They need change. If our farming techniques are not modernised, we cannot improve their lives. We cannot survive only by producing wheat and paddy. We need to diversify…we have to prepare farmers for a new journey,” he said.
Modi, who listed the initiatives taken by his government since 2014, underlined the importance of the private sector. Pointing out that the Covid vaccines were developed by private players, the Prime Minister said the country should have faith in the youth who are wealth-creators.
“Wealth creators are important for the country. Then only can we distribute…How will we distribute wealth to the poor? How will we provide jobs? Everything should be run by babus? Will the one who (got into) IAS run fertiliser factories, fly planes?… Babus are from this country, so are the youth…the country will benefit if the youth are given more powers,” the Prime Minister said.