The BJP government has maintained in the Parliament that the three farm laws are not against farmers, that Mandis will stay and MSP will continue and challenged the opposition over the flaws in agriculture laws and accused them of spreading wrong information.
Prime Minister Modi in his reply to the Motion of Thanks spoke about the farm laws and the agitation by farmers. The key highlights of his pro-farm laws speech included the necessity of taking up reforms in agriculture. He said reforms in agriculture in the 21st century cannot be undertaken with the mentality of 18th century. He also said how the private sector played as important a role as the public sector. Corporates and private business houses have been under attack ever since the three “anti-farmer” laws came into force. Opposition have even called these laws as pro-capitalists and not pro-farmers. The PM through his reference has been seen directly supporting private sector while the opposition continues to flay the government for siding with “crony capitalists”.
Speaking about farm laws and the farmers’ protest, the PM said no mandis were shut after the farm laws were passed. “In fact, the procurement at MSP has increased since then,” he said. Prime Minister Modi also said that the provisions in the new farm laws were “optional”, nothing was “compulsory” and the old system would continue.
While the PM maintained that the government respected farmers and their agitation what disturbed many was his coinage of words like “andolan jeevi” and “parasites” for those joining farmers’ protests. He said “I am seeing that for some time a new entity has come up in this country- andolan jeevi. This community can be spotted wherever there is a protest, be it agitation by lawyers, students, or labourers, sometimes at the forefront and sometimes from behind. They cannot live without protests. We have to identify such people and protect the nation from them. They are parasites.”
He was referring to people who were capturing toll plazas or breaking telecom cables in Punjab as part of protests. He also slammed tweets by foreigners saying a new kind of FDI had emerged in the country and it was ‘Foreign Destructive Ideology’. “We need to be more aware to save the country from such an ideology,” he said.
The opposition reacted sharply to PM’s words with Rahul Gandhi tweeting “Crony-jeevi” to raise the issue of privatisation of Public sector banks and others objecting to the use of instigating words like “parasites” while at the same as promising to hold more talks with farmers.
In retort to PM’s challenge to debate on content and intent of farm laws Rahul Gandhi said the intent of the first law is “is to give one friend, the right to have all crops of India. Who’ll be at loss? ‘thelawalas’, small businessmen and those working in the mandis. The intent of the second laws to help the second friend, the Congress leader said, adding “The content of the second law is that big businessmen can store as much food grains, fruits and vegetables as they want. They can hoard as much as they want. Content of the second law is to end the Essential Commodities Act. It is to start unlimited hoarding in India.”
Gandhi claimed that the content of the third law is that “when a farmer goes before the biggest businessman of India to demand the right price for his crops, he will not be allowed to go to the court.”
Although the PM has maintained saying “we are open to modifications in farm laws if that is in the greater interest of farmers” farmers only appear to be intensifying their protests with a planned Rail Roko agitation scheduled for 18 Feb.