Modi reaches out to farmers amid anger

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday came out strongly in defence of the three contentious farm bills enacted by his government, saying the legislation would benefit both farmers by giving them the freedom to choose where they wanted to sell their produce as well as consumers by taking middlemen out of agricultural trading.

Amid protests by some farmers groups against the legislation, Modi said in his monthly radio address, Mann Ki Baat, that farmers had benefitted when fruits and vegetables were brought out of the Agricultural Produce Market Committees (APMCs) system in some states a few years ago, allowing them to sell the produce outside of the mandis that once functioned as monopolies.

Grain producers will now gain the same freedom, the prime minister said, illustrating the theme with examples from states.

The speech came a day after the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) lost its Punjab ally, the Shiromani Akali Dal, which walked out of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) after protesting against the new laws. SAD had pulled its lone representative in the Modi government, food processing industries minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal, from the cabinet on September 17.

Modi cited the example of a farmer, Kanwar Chauhan, in Haryana’s Sonipat district,who told him about how he could not sell his fruits outside the mandi system at one time. In 2014, fruits and vegetables were excluded from the APMC Act and the farmers benefitted from the move.Farmers like Chauhan produce sweet corn and baby corn and supply the produce directly to Delhi market and earn Rs 2.5 lakh to Rs 3 lakh per acre per year.

With SAD’s exit, the BJP has lost its by far two most dependable and ideologically bound allies within a year. Last year, the BJP lost the support of the Shiv Sena in Maharashtra, where the Sena formed a government with the NCP and the Congress.

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