19 Jul 2022

"Just a formality": Farm manager on the center's minimum support price panel

Farmer leaders from Punjab and Haryana have expressed concern over the Centre's recently formed Minimum Support Price (MSP) committee, which claims the government wants to roll back the repealed farm laws through the back door.
Farmers' representatives felt that the committee should have limited itself to the issue of territorial planning of maritime areas, while other topics, such as ways to promote natural farming and crop diversification, could be dealt with separately.

Bhartiya Kisan Union-Dakaunda leader Manjit Singh Dhaner alleged that the government had set up the panel as a mere formality.

"The creation of this committee was only a formality. Our fight for a legal guarantee for SMEs will continue. Our demand was a separate panel on the issue of SMEs," he said.

Mr. Dhaner also alleged that some members who are part of the committee had earlier supported the three farm bills.

"It seems the government wants to bring back the farm laws again by the back door," he said.

Haryana BKU (Chaduni) chief Gurnam Singh Chaduni said the farmers had been demanding an MSP committee, "but many issues like crop diversification etc. have been involved in diluting the MSP issue".

He, too, echoed Mr. Dhaner that there were people on the committee who were outspoken advocates of farm bills.

"It seems that the government wants to bring back the farm laws through the back door. We (BKU-Chaduni) are boycotting this committee," Mr Chaduni said.

Rajya Sabha MP Raghav Chadha, also the chairman of the interim committee to advise the Punjab government on matters of public importance, claimed that the central government's committee "is the latest example of the BJP's cynical and short-sighted dabbling in agriculture as lessons will not be learned from the disastrous exemption." ".

He also objected to the exclusion of Punjab institutions and state government representatives from the committee. "By deliberately excluding Punjab, the central government has insulted our people," Chadha tweeted.

He argued that the principles of federalism were violated by the non-representation of states, especially Punjab.

"Clear evidence that the BJP cannot lead India in a unified manner, especially on issues important to its farmers. It is clear why an 'effective' MSP is on the table, but a legal guarantee of a minimum MSP is not," Mr Chadha said.

Bharti Kisan (Lakhowal) Union general secretary Harinder Singh Lakhowal said there were several concerns about the committee. "It is not clear what the scope of the committee is... We don't think this committee can work on SMEs," he said.

However, Haryana's Guni Parkash, a farmer leader who is a member of the committee, said all concerns raised by other farm leaders would be discussed in the panel.

He said MSP is not the only problem facing farmers and many related issues like crop diversification and promotion of natural farming are among the ways to strengthen agriculture.

Meanwhile, the Samyukta Kisan Morcha, the umbrella body of farmers' unions, rejected the government's MSP committee, saying its members were "so-called farmer leaders" who supported the now repealed farm laws.

The government created the committee on Monday, about eight months after promising to set up such a committee while withdrawing three controversial farm bills last year.

According to the notification, the committee will explore ways to provide MSP to farmers by making the system more efficient and transparent. In addition to SMEs, the committee will focus on ways to support natural farming, crop diversification and micro-irrigation.

Among other things, it will also suggest the practicalities of giving more autonomy to the Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices, which sets the MSP of agricultural crops, and take steps to make it more scientific.

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