Farmers’ protest: Little headway, farmers insist on discussing guaranteed MSP

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January 16, 2021 5:15 AM

At the beginning of the meeting farmer leaders complained the panel of ministers about different government agencies harassing transporters and others who are supporting the protest.

Tomar highlighted 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 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.

While the ninth round of talks between agitating farmers and the government, the first after the Supreme Court order appointing a four-member committee to resolve the impasse, also remained inconclusive on Friday, the government maintained that a solution could indeed emerge from the mechanisms of talks between the government and farmers and the deliberations of the SC-appointed panel.

Farmer unions agreed to meet the government again on January 19 for the next round of talks, but remained firm in their stance that they won’t resort to the panel set up by the apex court. Sources said the farmer leaders perceived a softening of the government’s stand, as it did not insist during Friday’s talks that the three contentious laws won’t be rolled back.

After the talks, agriculture minister Narendra Singh Tomar said: “If farmer leaders want, they may form an informal group who can prepare some proposals on as to what the farmers need and what clauses in the laws are problematic for them. The government is ready to consider those proposals with an open mind.” However, farmer leaders rejected the suggestion.

Tomar said: “talks took place over three farm laws in a cordial atmosphere and detailed discussions took place on some issues, but we couldn’t reach a decisive stage.” He added that the government would present its views before the SC-appointed committee, if invited.

Till the lunch break the discussion was mainly on repeal of the laws while commerce and railway minister Piyush Goyal talked in detail about the amendments in the Essential Commodities Act and their positive implications for farmers. 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 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. As the MSP issue was taken up during post-lunch, there was very little time left, one leader said. “In the next round of talks, we will first raise the MSP issue,” said Rakesh Tikait, spokesperson of the Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU).

At the beginning of the meeting farmer leaders complained the panel of ministers about different government agencies harassing transporters and others who are supporting the protest. Citing criminal cases filed against farmers in Haryana, they asked the government to stop all such repressive actions.

Later in the evening, the Samyukta Kisan Morcha (United Farmers’ Front), which is the main body of the protesting farmers, issued a statement saying they “oppose” the views of the panel of ministers that the Supreme Court should decide to repeal these laws. “The Lok Sabha is the house of people elected by the people of India. These laws have been made by Parliament and should be repealed by parliament,” the statement by the farmers’ union said. The detailed plan for January 26 “Kisan Republic Parade” will be announced January 17, a day before the next hearing in the Supreme Court, the statement said.

Bhartiya Kisan Union (Mann) president Bhupinder Singh Mann, one of the four members on the SC-appointed panel, on 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. “As a farmer myself and a union leader, in view of the prevailing sentiments and apprehensions amongst the farm unions and the public in general, I am ready to sacrifice any position offered or given to me so as to not compromise the interests of Punjab and farmers of the country,” Mann said in a statement. “I am recusing myself from the committee and I will always stand with my farmers and Punjab,” he said.

Shetkari Sanghatana (Maharashtra) president Anil Ghanwat, former director of International Food Policy Research Institute Pramod Kumar Joshi and agriculture economist Ashok Gulati are also on the panel.

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