Speaking in the Rajya Sabha on Monday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi once again offered to hold talks with agitating farmers, while expressing the Centre’s willingness to amend the three farm laws in a bid to end the protests at Delhi’s borders.
“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,” Modi said, while delivering his speech on the motion of thanks to the President’s address to both Houses of Parliament.
He also assured the agitating farmers that MSP and mandis won’t go away. “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 800 million people will continue. Please do not try to spread misinformation. We also need to strengthen means to increase the incomes of farmers,” Modi said.
The prime minister said the Union agriculture minister was in constant dialogue with farmers and there was no tension yet, as both sides are trying to understand each other.
“We should move forward and not take the country behind. All the Opposition and the government, protesters should give these reforms a chance and see if this change helps them. We are ready to remove shortcomings,” Modi said.
The prime minister also dug out old statements such as one by his predecessor Manmohan Singh supporting reforms to allow farmers to sell their produce where they get the best price. He said the Opposition parties had done a “U-turn” on their own words.
Modi hit out at those behind the protests, saying a new “breed” of agitators called “andolan jeevi” has emerged in the country that cannot live without agitation. He added that a new FDI (foreign destructive ideology) had come up in the nation and “we need to be more aware to save the country from such ideology”.
Reacting to Modi’s offer, Bhartiya Kisan Union leader Rakesh Tikait reiterated the unions’ demand for a legal guarantee of the minimum support price (MSP) for crops, along with the repeal of the laws. Other leaders didn’t reject the proposal outright, but wanted a formal offer on talks from the Centre.
Meanwhile, Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge said: “The prime minister’s address had no substance and as usual he made a political speech. The prime minister tried to mislead in his speech and said nothing to resolve the issues of farmers.”
The Centre received support from ally and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, who said the new laws were in the “interests of the farmers”.