Rajat Sharma

Why Modi said, entry of private sector in agriculture will benefit farmers

Modi pointed out that already six months have passed since the farm laws were enacted, neither the ‘mandis’ were abolished, nor MSP system was discontinued, nor any farmer’s land was forcibly occupied by any corporate. Farmers should trust the government. It will never act against their interests, now and in future.

AKB30 If you want to know what Prime Minister Narendra Modi thinks about the farmers’ movement, you should watch his speech in Lok Sabha on Wednesday. In his 90-minute speech in Lok Sabha, he sought to dispel all doubts about whether the new farm laws will lead to an end to ‘mandis’ and MSP system.

Modi also explained whether farmers will be compelled to accept the new farm laws or not. He also rebutted the charges that the government wanted to crush the farmers’ agitation. The Prime Minister mentioned how toll plazas and mobile phone towers were damaged in the name of farmers’ agitation. He questioned what posters demanding release of Naxalites and in support of Khalistan had to do with the farmers’ agitation.

In my prime time show ‘Aaj Ki Baat”, I had pointed out several times during the last two months how Khalistan supporters and those from the ‘tukde-tukde’ gang supporting Maoists and jihadis, had infiltrated the ranks of farmers. I had then clearly said that efforts were being made to hijack the farmers’ movement. In his speech, Modi described how efforts are being made by ‘andolanjeevis’ (professional protesters) to desecrate the sanctity of farmers’ movement.

At that time, I had urged farmer leaders to keep such hijackers away from the agitation, but the leaders adopted a soft stance towards them. Now the same farm leaders are admitting that they have nothing to do with those who indulged in violence on Republic Day. It is now too late to make amends. The ‘andolanjeevis’ have already sullied the image of farmer leaders. Despite all these, the Prime Minister on Wednesday said that the government was still ready to dispel all doubts from the minds of farmers who are still sitting on dharna on Delhi’s borders.

Modi pointed out that already six months have passed since the farm laws were enacted, neither the ‘mandis’ were abolished, nor MSP system was discontinued, nor any farmer’s land was forcibly occupied by any corporate. Farmers should trust the government. It will never act against their interests, now and in future.

As far as I remember, this was the seventh time when the Prime Minister said, ‘mandis’ will not be abolished. The government, on the contrary, is modernizing the ‘mandis’. To those who wanted to sell their produce in the ‘mandis’, Modi said, they were free to sell there and all that the government has done, was to provide them with options to sell them in other places if they wished to.

On the argument being made that the farmers had never wanted these new laws, Modi said, this is typically an old mindset. He said, his government does not believe in the old mindset of framing laws only if there is a demand. “We do not believe in status quo. We are forward looking. We have taken a decision with sincere intent looking towards the future of farmers”, he said. In a rhetorical flourish, Modi asked: “Did anybody ask for a law on abolition of triple talaq? Did anybody demand Right to Education? Did anybody demand Right to Food? This is a feudal mindset that we will make laws only when there is a demand.”

Replying to charges made by Congress leader Rahul Gandhi and the Left parties that Modi was working to help his “crony industrialists” like Ambani and Adani, the Prime Minister said, “Private sector is as much essential as the farmers who are our ‘annadatas’. Private sector industries are necessary to give jobs to millions of people. We cannot ignore the contribution of private sector to nation’s progress.”

He reminded how the private sector changed the face of telecom sector, providing phone, voice and video data at the cheapest rates in the world. “When private sector enters, competition increases and you get good quality goods and services at competitive rates. Whether it is the telecom sector, or electronic goods sector, or automobile sector or textile sector. In all these areas, the common man benefited with the entry of private sector. They brought jobs and cheaper services and products”, he said.

Modi said, at the time of independence, there were 28 per cent landless labourers, but during the 2011 census it was found that there were 58 per cent agricultural labourers working in India. We must change this, the status quo has to change. Only government assistance will not do. The agricultural sector needs a big infusion of funds from private sector, new types of farming will have to be adopted. Private entities also contribute much to nation’s progress and it would be wrong to abuse the private sector.”

Modi is right. If private sector enters the field of agriculture, infrastructure will improve, small and marginal farmers will get better jobs and big farmers will get more remunerative prices for their crops. The new farm laws will provide better advantages to the average farmer to grow and sell his crops.

The House witnessed noisy scenes when Congress MPs created a din when the Prime Minister spoke and caused a ruckus for more than 20 minutes. Only after the Congress MPs staged a noisy walkout, the Prime Minister continued with his speech. Watching the ruckus, I felt bad. It has been a long standing tradition in Parliament for members to listen to the speech of Prime Ministers in silence.

I had watched the PM speaking in Rajya Sabha a day before, when he had tears in his eyes when he recollected an incident 14 years ago, while giving a farewell speech to the Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad. Both the leaders had tears in their eyes when they narrated that incident. That was the beauty of Indian democracy, and in it lies its core strength. There was dignity from both sides, combined with emotion when the leader of the nation had tears in his eyes while praising the leader of the opposition. The situation was the opposite in Lok Sabha. The Congress MPs led by Rahul Gandhi did not show patience to listen to the PM’s arguments. Modi initially tried to smile and laugh away the barbs that were being thrown at him by Congress MPs, but they did not relent and finally Rahul led his party MPs in staging a walkout.

Modi referred to this and said Congress appears to be “a divided and confused party”. “The condition of Congress Party, the country’s oldest political party, is such that its Rajya Sabha unit moves in one direction and its Lok Sabha unit moves in another direction. Such a party can neither do any good for itself nor can it think of any solution to the nation’s problems”, Modi said.

The Congress MPs should have listened to the Prime Minister’s speech in full. They could have realized that Modi was offering options to farmers, whether to accept the old system or opt for a new one. Modi has not made the farmers’ stir a matter of prestige. He said, his government was still ready for talks with farmers. He said, he respected the rights of farmers to agitate, but they should know the difference between an ‘andolankari’ (protester) and an ‘andolanjeevi’(professional protester). He pointed out how because of attacks on toll plazas, mobile phone towers and the dishonour of national flag have tarnished the image of farmers.

It is time that the farmer leaders should realize the impracticality of their demand for repeal of the three laws, reopen talks with the government and bring the agitation to an end.

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