Modi Defends New India Farm Laws As Protests Continue to Simmer
(Bloomberg) -- India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi defended his government’s new laws that seek to deregulate food procurement on Friday, as tens of thousands of farmers continue to protest on the outskirts of capital New Delhi.
Modi listed government measures taken to improve procurement and called on state administrations implementing the laws to explain them to farmers. He blamed opposition parties for fueling the protests by misleading “simple-hearted” farmers and said the laws were similar to measures discussed by earlier governments.
“Even after the government’s efforts if anyone has objections, we are willing to discuss every issue with our heads bowed and with folded hands,” Modi said in his 50-minute virtual speech addressing farmers, who are among India’s most influential voters. The protests are the biggest since nationwide demonstrations sparked by the government’s religion-based citizenship law that was passed by an overwhelming majority in parliament in December 2019.
Farmers from Haryana and Punjab who’ve been camping outside New Delhi since Nov. 26 are demanding a repeal of the three laws passed in September that allow them to sell crops directly to private firms instead of licensed middlemen at state-controlled markets.
While Modi said the laws will help them earn more cash, the farmers fear companies won’t honor minimum prices set by the government. The prime minister said the government was investing in modernizing existing state-run procurement systems and farmers would have the choice to sell to companies or to the government. Modi said he will address farmers again on Dec. 25.
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