Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Friday that political parties, experts and even farmers had been demanding new farm laws for long, and assured that the Minimum Support Price (MSP) mechanism for crops will continue.
Addressing farmers of Madhya Pradesh through virtual mode, he alleged that opposition parties themselves advocated such laws, but now they were protesting because they did not want him to get credit for the reforms.
The government was ready to talk with farmers, the prime minister said, as the agitation against the new agri laws at Delhi borders entered its 23rd day.
"Even after all these government's efforts if anyone has any doubt over the farm laws, we, with folded hands and heads bowed, are ready for talks," he said.
"The new agriculture laws have not been drafted overnight but political parties, agriculture experts and progressive farmers have demanded it for a long time.
"Farms and farmers in India should not lag behind now. They need to get facilities and get modernized. There should not be a delay in it. Time cannot wait," the prime minister said.
"In the last 20-22 years, the Center and the state governments have deliberated on these agriculture reforms in detail. Farmer bodies, agriculture scientists and farmers too were continuously demanding them," he said.
"In fact, farmers should seek answers from those opposing them now as to why they advocated these farm laws in their manifestos for getting their votes, but never fulfilled the promise. It was not their priority," Modi said.
"Their problem is how Modi has done it. Why Modi should get credit for it. Give credit to your manifesto and not to me. I just want the progress of farmers, but stop misleading them on the issue," he added.
"If you see their manifestos, you will find that today's reforms are not different from what they had promised," the prime minister said.
"You are using farmers' shoulders to fire at the government," he said, hitting out at the opposition.
"We are asking them again and again to point out problems in the new farm laws, but they don't have any answer. Those who have lost their political space in the country are misleading farmers that they will lose their lands," he said.
"I wish to expose these political parties now. The report of the Swaminathan committee is an example. When the report came, they sat on it for eight years.
"Farmers were agitating for it, but they were not bothered. As they didn't want to pay farmers more, they sat on the report," Modi alleged.
"In the changed global scenario, this should not be accepted. The things (reform) which should have taken place 25 to 30 years ago have been done now. We have already been late," he added.
"Our government treated farmers as "annadata" (one who provides food) and implemented the Swaminathan committee report. We have given 1.5 times more MSP than the cost of production," the prime minister added.
"Two years ago it was promised that loans will be waived, but farmers of Madhya Pradesh know better than me how many farmers got benefit in reality. In Rajasthan, farmers are still waiting for the loan waiver," he said, attacking the Congress which rules in Rajasthan and was in power in MP until March this year.
As to the fear that MSP for crops will be done away with, the prime minister said, "Our government is so serious about MSP that it announces it for crops even before sowing.
"Over six months have passed since the implementation of the new agriculture laws, and crops were purchased at MSP even during the coronavirus pandemic and in the same mandis (APMC markets) where farmers used to sell (earlier).
"No sane person will accept that MSP will be scrapped. Nothing will be a bigger lie and conspiracy than this," Modi said, assuring that MSP for crops will continue.
Those opposing the farm laws were also spreading lies about Agricultural Produce Market Committees (APMCs), the prime minister said.
Under the new law farmers are free to sell the produce in the existing APMC mandis if they get more price, he said.
"Not a single mandi was closed in the last six months. In fact, the government is spending Rs 500 crore on their modernization," the prime minister said.
Referring to the new law on contracts between private entities and farmers, he said such agreements existed earlier too.
The new law makes such agreements more binding on private entities, and they can not run away from their commitment to the farmer even if they suffer a loss, Modi said.
He will address the farmers again on December 25 on the issue, the PM said.