As the farmers' protest against three contentious farm laws entered its 77th day on Wednesday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi invited them to resolve their issues through discussion with the government, clarifying that these acts are "optional and not compulsory".
Making the announcement in the Lok Sabha while delivering his speech on Motion of Thanks on the President's address, he said that the government respects the farmers and will always honour them in future too.
He appealed to the farmers to avoid rumours being spread against the three farm laws as well as the Central government and discuss their issues without hesitation to break the deadlock persisting even after several rounds of talks between the two sides.
The Prime Minister assured thousands of farmers sitting on agitation at different Delhi borders since November 26 that the government would give utmost respect to their logical suggestions and accept those which would be in their benefit.
Stressing said that these laws were passed by the Parliament as reforming the agriculture sector was the need of the hour, he asked if they had snatched the benefits which the farmers were getting earlier.
"There is no restriction on anyone. These laws do not create obstacles in the growth of farmers. These laws are optional, not compulsory. These acts neither stopped old 'Mandis' nor affected purchase of produce on Minimum Support Price (MSP)."
The Prime Minister said that the government had held various rounds of dialogue with the farmers even before they reached Delhi where they are agitating for withdrawal of these laws terming them as "black laws" and "anti-farmer laws".
"We are still ready to hold further rounds of talks with the farmers with open heart and take their suggestions on these three farm laws," Modi said.
Reiterating that "neither any 'mandis' closed nor purchase on MSP ended after these laws were passed," the Prime Minister said in contrast, the government has made provisions to increase the number of mandis in this budget and the purchase on MSP has also increased compared to previous years.
The opposition created a ruckus when the Prime Minister was delivering his speech with Congress floor leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury repeatedly disrupting his address, and Modi said that this "uproar is an attempt under pre-decided strategy".
"It will not help you (Congress) in gaining support of people. Farm reforms are very important. It is necessary. Congress members should have discussed the content and intent of these farm laws, they should not misguide farmers and spread rumours."
Dubbing Congress a "confused party', the Prime Minister claimed that "neither this party can do good for itself nor to the country".
He said that its members in Rajya Sabha participated in a fair debate and in Lok Sabha, they have a different opinion.
Taking on Congress's comment as to who had demanded the three farm laws, the Prime Minister said several reforms have already been done in the country without any demand and these were only done for the welfare of the citizens.
From anti-dowry law, child marriage, right of property to daughters, right to education, Swachhata scheme, 'Har Ghar Shauchalya' (toilet for every household) scheme to Ayushman Bharat scheme, the Prime Minister said all those steps were taken without any demand because his government does not want to make citizens "yachak" (seekers), but "we want them to give their rights to improve their confidence".
"That time has gone when the citizens had to make demands to get anything."
Modi also accused the Opposition of taking a U-turn on farm laws, saying that Nationalist Congress Party Chief Sharad Pawar, who was the Agriculture Minister in Dr Manmohan Singh's government, and other Congress members had earlier supported agriculture reforms.
"Now, the Congress wants to misguide people," he said.
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.