India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) might be celebrating after finally pushing through key agriculture reforms in parliament, but farmer leaders have raised concerns, saying hat the government may have lost the trust of farmers by not responding to their most important demand.
“We were asking for minimum support price (MSP) assurance for only 23 commodities which are covered under this regime. In a cumulative sense, they account for just 8-10 percent of total agri produce sales amounting to a staggering Rs 30 lakh crore annually in the country. It wasn’t a massive demand,” said Chaudhary Pushpendra Singh, President, Kisan Shakti Sangh, a farmers’ body in western Uttar Pradesh.
Despite mounting pressure from farmers’ organisations and political parties in Punjab and Haryana, the union government has successfully managed to push through the ordinances — The Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Ordinance, 2020; The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement; and The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Ordinance, 2020 — to turn them into law.
“Nobody is today opposed to agri-reforms. But the rigidity shown by the government in not paying heed to the MSP assurance on major commodities is difficult to understand. It may further fuel agitation in other parts of the country as farmers in other states were hopeful that the government would not rush into it,” he added.
Responding to the argument that the agitation witnessed so far has been fuelled more by the intermediaries who are apprehensive of losing their dominant position in the operational value if farmers have multiple options to sell, Singh maintained that farmers are looking for an end of exploitation all across.
“There is no denying the fact that farmers have to suffer in the hands of intermediaries. But under the new liberalised regime, they wouldn’t like to suffer as private buyers would negotiate hard if there is no floor price mechanism,” he emphasised.
“Look at what happened in Bihar recently when the maize farmers were forced to sell their produce to private traders at two-third of the MSP during the current season. This wouldn’t have happened if it was mandatory that private traders will not buy below the floor price,” he pointed out.