Farmer Body Never Nominated MSP Panel Members, Says Centre Amid Protests

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Farmer Body Never Nominated MSP Panel Members, Says Centre Amid Protests

Farmers began protesting this morning over demands for legal backing for MSP.

New Delhi:

The government – faced with a second mass uprising in four years by farmers demanding, among other things, a law to guarantee MSP, or minimum support price for all crops – has said the Samyukt Kisan Morcha, one of the farmer organisations behind this protest, never nominated representatives to a committee it formed in July 2022 to “make MSP more effective and transparent”.

A notification was issued on July 12 that cited Prime Minister Narendra Modi and said “a committee will be constituted to promote zero budget-based farming, to change crop patterns keeping in mind changing needs of the country, and to make MSP more effective and transparent”.

This committee, the notification said, would consist of representatives from the centre and various state governments, as well as farmers, and agricultural scientists and economists. The notification named 25 of 29 members, including former Agriculture Secretary Sanjay Agrawal as Chairman.

In the space for “representatives of farmers”, the notification included three members from the Samyukt Kisan Morcha and, immediately after, it said “names to be added on receipt”.

Protests over legal assurances for MSP and extending the policy to cover all crops are among the primary reasons why over 200 farmer unions, and an estimated one lakh farmers, began ‘Delhi Chalo 2.0’ – a march on the national capital – today, in a worrying repeat of the 2020/21 violent clashes.

READ | Video: Farmers Throw Barriers From Flyover, Face Water Cannons

It didn’t take long for violence to break; in fact, minutes after the farmers began their march, police at the Shambhu border crossing between Punjab and Haryana fired tear gas and water cannons to slow down, if not disperse, the thousands of farmers from each state who had already amassed.

Visuals showed huge plumes of smoke – making visibility almost impossible – and hundreds of farmers, as well as media personnel, running helter-skelter to the sound of tear gas shells being fired. Videos also showed farmers, with scarves around their faces, jumping concrete barriers to push aside metal barricades, and war zone-like scenes with green fields shrouded in tear gas smoke.

READ | Farmers Try To Cross Punjab-Haryana Border, Tear Gas Used

The ruling BJP – aware of the potential negative optics of another large-scale farmers protest just weeks before an election – has reached out to the farmers. Two union ministers, including junior Agriculture Minister Arjun Munda, have already had one meeting, in which some deals were made.

READ | What Are The Key Demands Of Farmers That Remain Unresolved?

Mr Munda told NDTV “some people want to create problems” and called on the farmers to have patience. “The government is committed to farmers’ interests.”

READ | Ready To Negotiate, But Some Don’t Want Solution: Minister To NDTV

There remains distance, though, on critical issues – such as the MSP guarantees, waiver of farm loans, and implementation of the MS Swaminathan Commission’s recommendations.

Significantly, the first point has been backed by Dr RB Singh, a Padma Bhushan awardee and a member of that Commission, who told NDTV, “For farmers to get the right price for their crops, it is necessary to make a new law on MSP…” He said the panel wanted MSP to be fixed 50 per cent higher than cost of production. “But this has not been implemented in a uniform manner…” he said.

READ | Amid Farmers’ Protest, Swaminathan Commission Member Backs Law On MSP

The commission was led by MS Swaminathan, who is considered the ‘father of the Green Revolution’ in the country. He received a Bharat Ratna – India’s highest civilian award – this month, with the Prime Minister declaring his “visionary leadership has… transformed Indian agriculture…”

READ | Bharat Ratna For MS Swaminathan, Father Of Green Revolution

Meanwhile, Rakesh Tikait, a key figure in the 2020/21 protests has backed this second ‘Delhi Chalo’ agitation, and issued a warning.

READ | Farmer Leader Rakesh Tikait’s “If Government Creates Problem” Warning

“There are several farmer unions and they have different issues… If the government creates a problem for farmers marching to Delhi, we are not far away…” he told reporters.

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