22:21 GMT03 March 2021
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    Indian President Ram Nath Kovind addressed a joint sitting of both houses of parliament on Friday, a customary speech delivered ahead of the commencement of the budget session. 20 opposition parties have decided to boycott his speech in solidarity with protesting farmers.

    In an attempt to calm protesting farmers, India’s President Ram Nath Kovind announced in parliament on Friday that the three farm laws will not be implemented until all the concerns are addressed, as per the apex court’s directives.  

    “At present, the implementation of these laws has been postponed by the country's highest court. My government will respect and follow the Supreme Court's decision in full respect”, announced the president, as protesters stay put at various camp sites on the outskirts of Delhi, proceeding with their agitation that started two months ago.

    As opposition parties and farmers’ unions claim that the government did not consult them before promulgating the three laws, President Kovind assured the farmers that the new laws will not curtail any rights and facilities the farmers enjoyed under the old system.

    “Rather, through these agricultural reforms, the government has given new rights to farmers", Kovind underscored while addressing members of the parliament on Friday.

    The president said that the biggest beneficiaries of these agricultural reforms will be 100 million small and marginal farmers which constitute 80 percent of the total number of farmers in the country.

    “Many political parties had given full support to these reforms from time to time only after realising these benefits to small farmers”, the president emphasised amid a boycott of his address by 20 of the country's opposition parties in support of the protesting farmers.

    The president said that the government has decided to implement the recommendations of the Swaminathan Committee report and increased the minimum support price (MSP) to at least 1.5 times the cost of production.

    “My Government is not only purchasing record quantities at the MSP, but is also increasing the number of procurement centres”, the president underlined.

    The procurement by the government was done under the MSP mechanism, by which the state purchases farm produce from the farmers at a government rate announced at the end of the harvest season. This ensures that farms don't operate at a loss.

    The contentious legislations were passed amid chaos in the Rajya Sabha during the Monsoon session last September.

    The three laws that sparked the controversy are the Farmers' Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020, the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020, and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020.  

    Earlier, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in a statement to the media, called for debate and discussion in parliament.

    “The coming decade is vital for India’s progress. We have to remember the vision and dreams of the greats who fought for our nation’s freedom. Let there be detailed debate and discussions on the floor of parliament”, Modi said.

    Thousands of farmers are protesting on Delhi's borders against the new farm laws to express their anger as they fear the MSP system is being diluted, as the new laws now allow farmers to enter into supply contracts with any procurer across the country.

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