New Delhi: PM Narendra Modi Friday made a direct appeal to protesting farmers to come to the negotiating table and talk on facts even as he accused the governments of West Bengal and Kerala, opposition-led states bound for elections early next year, of playing politics over farmer interests.
“Our government is willing to engage with even those who are ideologically against us, but talks must be based on issues, facts and logic,” Modi said, adding that those with a “political agenda” are not letting farmers engage in dialogue with the government to address their concerns.
While he attacked the Mamata Banerjee government in Bengal for depriving farmers of benefits under central schemes like PM-Kisan — which guarantees Rs 6,000 in annual assistance to farmers — he accused the Pinarayi Vijayan-led Left administration in Kerala of misleading tillers on the farm laws.
He made the remarks in an address that followed an online interaction with farmers where he released over Rs 18,000 crore for 9 crore farmers as part of the next instalment of the PM-Kisan Samman Nidhi scheme.
Taking on Mamata in one of his most direct attacks, Modi said her ideology had destroyed Bengal, adding that she had not let over 70 lakh farmers in the state benefit from the Modi government’s direct benefit money transfer.
“Her action hurts me a lot. Why is the opposition silent on this?” the PM asked.
In the upcoming assembly election, Mamata’s Trinamool Congress is facing its toughest challenge since 2011, when it came to power for the first time, from an emergent BJP, which is looking to score its maiden victory in the state on the back of recent inroads made by the party.
Modi also hit out at Kerala for misleading Punjab’s farmers. “Those ruling Kerala for years are joining Punjab farmers for selfies, but not doing anything for the mandi system in their own state,” the PM said.
One of the major grievances of farmers with respect to the farm laws is that they fear it will uproot the mandi system that guarantees them a minimum support price (MSP) for certain crops.
Modi said the groups who are talking about mandis and Agricultural Produce Market Committees (APMCs) are the ones who destroyed West Bengal and Kerala. “There are no APMCs and mandis in Kerala. So, why are no protests happening in Kerala? Why don’t they start a movement there?” he asked.
He also accused the opposition of feigning concern about farmers’ land. “We all know about those whose names came up in media for land grabbing,” he added.
Modi said that those rejected by the electorate are now indulging in “event management for publicity”.
“Promises were made and forgotten. Due to the agriculture policies of the previous government, the poor became poorer. Was it not important to change this state of farmers?” he asked.
‘Farmers can now sell where they get best price’
Seeking to emphasise that the three farm laws are bringing change in farmers’ lives, he added that every farmer knows today where they will get the best price for their produce.
Through these agricultural reforms, Modi said, the government wants to give better options to the farmers. “After these laws, they can sell their produce to whoever they want. They can sell produce where they get the right prices,” he added.
Modi said the government has tried to ensure the country’s farmers get a fair price for their crops, adding that it fixed the MSP at one-and-a-half times the production cost in keeping with the recommendations of the M.S. Swaminathan Committee report. “We also increased the number of crops for which MSP is available,” he said.