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No bigger lie than saying MSP is being scrapped, PM Modi tells farmers

No bigger lie than saying MSP is being scrapped, PM Modi tells farmers

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday sent a clear message to the country’s farmers that the government’s minimum support price (MSP) system for buying agricultural goods would continue and the new farm laws were aimed to give them additional opportunities to sell their produce and make more money.

“There cannot be a bigger lie or conspiracy to say that MSP will go away," the prime minister said in a speech video streamed to a huge farmers gathering organised in Madhya Pradesh. He said, “the new laws giving farmers freedom in selling their produce have not been brought in overnight. These laws have been brought in after a lot of thought but are opposed by political parties for selfish reasons."

“Over the last 20-30 years, central and state governments had detailed discussions on these reforms. Agriculture experts, economists and progressive farmers have been demanding such reforms,” the prime minister said.

"Those who governed before us wrote tall promises in their election manifestos and gave big assurances to farmers, but after winning the elections they did nothing about the farmers and the promises made to them. For decades the farmers were neglected," he pointed out.

Citing examples, PM Modi said that farmers who opted for selling outside the mandi system have seen a phenomenal rise in their earnings. He also pointed out that no one can force the farmers to do anything against their wishes.

The Modi-led government in September introduced three farm bills that it says will allow farmers to sell their produce outside regulated wholesale markets and make contract farming easier. Farmers say that the new laws will leave them at the mercy of big corporations.

Thousands of farmers angered by the three laws have intensified their protests by blocking highways on the borders of Delhi.

Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar said on Friday his government is in informal discussions with various groups to end opposition to the reforms. "Overall, our effort is to reach a solution through dialogue with them. We are still open for talks. We are holding discussions with unions. I hope through dialogue we can move towards reaching a solution," the minister said.

On Thursday, Tomar wrote an 8-page letter addressing the farmers. In an emotional appeal, the minister said that he comes from a family of farmers and knows all about the hardships faced by them. He said that the farmers are and will remain the ultimate master of their produce. PM Modi also tweeted the letter and urged everyone to read it.

The Supreme Court had on Thursday rejected calls to ban the protest and asked the government and unions to help form a committee of experts to mediate between them. It asked the attorney general if the government could give a commitment that the contentious laws would not be put into effect while the petitions seeking the removal of farmers from protest sites were being heard..