The government and Parliament have great respect for farmers who are voicing their views on the three farm bills, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Wednesday, and asserted that he holds their agitation "sacred", while making a fresh appeal to agitating farmers to resume talks with the Centre.
In his reply in Lok Sabha to a discussion on the Motion of Thanks to the President's Address, Modi staunchly defended the three contentious farms laws and made it clear that the new system under these laws
was not compulsory and only provided more options.
He also attacked the opposition parties for "misleading" farmers, saying those who are disrupting the House are doing so as per a "well-planned strategy" as they are unable to digest that people can see the truth.
During his over 90-minute speech, most of which was devoted to the farmers' issues, Modi said his government is open to amending the laws if there are any shortcomings, noting that the farmer unions were offered to have a clause by clause discussion on all three Acts to address their apprehensions.
With agitating farmer unions criticising his use of 'andolanjivi' during his speech in Rajya Sabha on Monday, the Prime Minister sought to make a distinction between 'andolankari' (agitators) and 'andolanjivi', a barb for people who jump from one protest to another.
Noting that his government and the House respect the farmers protesting the newly enacted laws, he said this is the reason why top Union ministers have been talking to them.
"I consider the Kisan Andolan to be 'pavitra' (sacred). But when 'andolanjivis' hijack sacred protests, showcase photos of those jailed for serious offences like terrorism, does it serve any purpose? Not allowing toll plazas to work, destroying telecom towers in Punjab, does it serve a 'pavitra andolan' (sacred agitation)," Modi said.
"The sacred agitation of these farmers is ruined by 'andolanjivis' and not 'andolankaris'. So, it is necessary for the nation to differentiate between 'andolanjivi' and 'andolankari'," he said.
He also made a fresh appeal to agitating farmers to come to the table for talks before concluding his speech.
Hitting out at the protesting Congress members, he said those who are disrupting the House are doing so as per a "well-planned strategy" as they are unable to digest that people are seeing through the truth.
"Through their games, the trust of the people can never be won," he said, amidst protests by the opposition members.
Congress members in their speech could not highlight any substantive flaw against these laws, he said and accused the opposition of misleading farmers.
As Modi explained his government's stand on the farm laws, the Congress walked out of the House in the middle of his speech.
Taking on the critics of the farm laws, he said they have been fuelling fear among farmers that it will lead to the weakening of the mandi system and MSP mechanism.
"After the laws were passed by Parliament, no mandi was shut. In fact more allocation has been made in the budget to modernise the farm mandis and boost the infrastructure. Likewise, MSP has remained. Procurement on MSP has remained. These facts can't be ignored," he said.
Modi also hit out at opposition members who had asked why these Acts when they were not demanded by farmers, saying he was shocked at the argument and asserted that his government believes in continuously empowering people.
No one had demanded laws against dowry or triple 'talaq', he said, adding that they were enacted as a requirement for a progressive society.
His government believes in progressive policies and not regressive ones, he said.
Taking a dig at opposition leaders, he said there are people who talk about the right things but object when right things are done. They fail to convert words into action, he added.
Those who talk big on electoral reforms oppose 'one nation one election' and those who speak of gender justice oppose the law against 'triple talaq', he said.
Emphasising that his government has been working to empower farmers, he said, "our farmer should become self-reliant and he should get freedom to sell his produce. There is a need to work in that direction".
Some people have a political agenda and he wishes them best but his agenda is for the nation, he asserted.
He also recalled the remarks of former Union agriculture minister Sharad Pawar in support of farm reforms, and noted that some opposition-ruled states have also taken steps in this regard.
"Now you have taken a U-turn. That is why I wonder as to why you have chosen to mislead farmers in such a manner," he said, mocking opposition members while citing a bhojpuri saying that means one will neither play nor allow others to play.
Noting that the kind of investment farming needed was not happening, Modi said there is a need to bring in investments and modernise agriculture sector.
Referring to the COVID-19 pandemic, Modi said India has managed the crisis successfully despite adverse predictions, and asserted that the country has now become a ray of hope for the world.
He said the world post-COVID19 is turning out to be very different and in such times remaining isolated from the global trends will be counter-productive.
"That is why India is working towards building an 'Aatmanirbhar Bharat' (self-reliant India), which seeks to further global good.
"Predictions were made that India cannot survive as a nation, but people of our country proved them wrong and we are now a ray of hope for the world," he said.
Complimenting healthcare and frontline workers for their relentless work during the pandemic, the Prime Minister said the way India has managed the coronavirus crisis is a turning point and the world has seen its success.
He also said the address of the President has showcased India's 'Sankalp Shakti' and his words have boosted the spirit of confidence among the people of India, infused new confidence and inspired every heart
"During the discussion on the President's speech, a large number of women MPs took part. This is a great sign. I want to congratulate the women MPs who enriched the House proceedings with their thoughts," he said.
In a jibe at Congress member Manish Tewari's remarks that India has managed Covid-19 well largely due to God's blessings, the Prime Minister said he agrees with him and that our doctors, nurses, sanitation staff and ambulance drivers came in the "form of God" to strengthened the country's fight against the global pandemic.
Noting that over Rs 2 lakh crore was transferred to the poor during the pandemic, he credited India's trinity of Jan Dhan accounts, Aadhaar and mobile for its success and took a swipe at opposition members for moving court against the Aadhaar law.
Modi said a new world order will emerge post-COVID and that it will be counterproductive for India to remain isolated.
"That is why, India is working towards building an Aatmanirbhar Bharat, which seeks to further global good," he said.