Modi says Opposition misleading farmers; alleges conspiracy to confuse them
As the farmers' protest at Delhi's borders entered its 20th day, Prime Minister Narendra Modi reiterated his government's claim that the protesters are being misled by the Opposition. The farmers have been protesting against three agricultural laws passed by Modi's government. Modi made the statement after laying the foundation stone for a desalination plant and a milk processing and packaging plant in Kutch, Gujarat.
'Opposition had backed agri reforms when they were in power'
Without naming the Indian National Congress, which has backed the farmers' protest, Modi said, "People who are sitting in the Opposition and misleading farmers today were in the favor of these farm reforms during their government." "They could not make a decision during their government," the PM said, "When the country has taken these steps, they are now confusing the farmers."
'Farmers being told that others will occupy their land'
Alleging a conspiracy to confuse the farmers, Modi added, "(The farmers) are being scared that after new agrarian reforms, others will occupy the land of the farmers. You tell me if a dairyman contracts to take milk from you, does he take your animal?"
Farmers' interests remain government's priority, says Modi
Modi said the farmers' interests have been his government's priority since day one. "The government is ready 24 hours to solve their every doubt." "The country is asking why small farmers who produce grains and pulses should not get the freedom to sell crops," Modi said, referring to clauses under the new laws that allow trade outside Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC) mandis.
Why are the farmers protesting?
For months, farmers have protested against the three farm laws passed in September. The protests intensified in late-November as thousands of farmers from several states reached Delhi, braving a police crackdown. Farmers fear that by allowing trade outside APMC mandis, the laws will weaken the mandis and they would be deprived of Minimum Support Prices (MSPs), leaving them vulnerable to exploitation by corporations.
Government's efforts to negotiate with protesters fall through
The government has held multiple rounds of talks with farmer leaders to relieve their apprehensions about the laws. A proposal to amend the laws was also presented to the leaders, however, it was rejected as the farmers stood firm on their demand for a complete rollback. Meanwhile, the government's claims that the protests have been hijacked by "Khalistani" forces have further fuelled public anger.