Damage control: Govt offers to stay farm laws for 18 months

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January 21, 2021 4:30 AM

Farmer leaders didn’t immediately accept the offer, refusing to settle for anything less than an outright repeal of the laws. Nonetheless, they agreed to discuss the Centre’s proposal.

Tomar highlighted that the current paddy procurement under MSP is robust and the Centre has increased the number of purchase centres by 1.5 times of what it was last year.Tomar highlighted that the current paddy procurement under MSP is robust and the Centre has increased the number of purchase centres by 1.5 times of what it was last year.

Caving in to the pressure put on it by agitating farmers, the Centre on Wednesday proposed it would keep three contentious farm laws in abeyance for 12-18 months and also set up a joint committee to discuss the legislations in detail.

Farmer leaders didn’t immediately accept the offer, refusing to settle for anything less than an outright repeal of the laws. Nonetheless, they agreed to discuss the Centre’s proposal.

The government’s softening stance will not merely delay the radical and much-needed reforms required to free farmers from the shackles of middlemen and ensure unhindered inter-state farm trade,it would also bring to the fore its inability to push through hard reforms in the face of stiff resistance.

Both the panel of ministers and farmer leaders have agreed to meet again on Friday to discuss the proposals.
After the 10th round of talks between agitating farmers and the government on Wednesday, agriculture minister Narendra Singh Tomar said: “We have proposed to withhold the implementation for 1-1.5 years so that the protest ends and the leaders sit with the government to discuss issues related to the protest.”

Even as the Supreme Court-appointed committee is working on the issue, the government also has the responsibility to deal with the situation arising out of the current protest, Tomar said.

The minister also said he was assured by farmer leaders they would discuss among themselves the proposal on Thursday and convey their decision in the next round of meeting. “I am very much hopeful of finding a solution in the next meeting,” he said.

Rakesh Tikait, spokesperson of the Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU), said: “The government is running away from discussion on MSP even as we wanted it.” “Knowing the government’s rigid stand on our demand for repeal of the laws, we wanted to take up the MSP issue first, but they (ministers’ panel) refused.” Some farmer leaders said they rejected the government’s suggestion to form a committee to discuss the MSP issue.

On January 12, the apex court had stayed the implementation of the farm laws and asked a committee constituted by it to submit its report within two months.

The committee was directed to hold a dialogue with farmers and submit its recommendations. But Bhartiya Kisan Union (Mann) president Bhupinder Singh Mann, one of the four members on the SC-appointed panel, last Thursday said he was recusing himself from the committee. His recusal came after farmer unions and Opposition parties called it a “pro-government” panel and insisted that the members publicly stated their position in favour of the three laws.
Meanwhile, the apex court on Wednesday expressed its strong displeasure over certain segments casting aspersions on the members of the committee constituted by it.

For its part, the government has already tried to explain that the MSP procurement regime won’t be stopped under the new laws. It also talked in detail about the amendments in the Essential Commodities Act and their positive implications for farmers. However, the farmers continued to demur.

Through the amendment in the EC Act, the government has said stock-holding limits on essential items will be imposed only if there is 100% increase in retail price of horticultural produce and 50% in non-perishable agricultural foodstuffs within a prescribed time frame.

On their demand for a legally guaranteed minimum support price (MSP) mechanism, farmer leaders said the government was trying to “run away from” a discussion on the issue. Tomar highlighted that the current paddy procurement under MSP is robust and the Centre has increased the number of purchase centres by 1.5 times of what it was last year.

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