AHEAD OF Monday’s meeting between farmer unions and the Centre, and after over half a dozen previous meetings failed to break the stalemate between the two groups, experts discuss the way forward.
At a time when the Centre is not repealing the three bills nor making MSP a legal entity and farmers are not ready to settle for less, most experts agree that MSP for all crops is a must so small farmers and farm labourers get an assured income to fulfil their basic needs like food, shelter, clothing, education of their children, health security, social security etc. They also said that there is need for a structural change in the cropping pattern of the country.
Professor Gian Singh, a retired economics professor from Punjabi University, Patiala, and an expert on farm issues, said, “In the last meeting, the government has adopted a little considerable attitude towards the demands of farmers. It is a good sign and the government may announce the repeal of these three contentious laws. To resolve this situation, the Centre can respect the federal structure of the country and ask the states to make law on the subject as per their needs.”
Former director, department of Agriculture Punjab, and member secretary, Punjab State Commission for Farmers and Farm Labourers Balwinder Singh Sidhu, who is among the officials observing the discussions between farmers’ unions and the Centre, said, “Farming is under acute distress in the country and alongwith repealing of these laws and making MSP legal, there is a lot of work to be done to bring structural changes in farming policies to provide remunerative income to both small farmers and the farm labourers.”
He added: “There are a few options with the Centre and farm unions to resolve the current situation. For the Centre, the first is that it should cancel these these laws because farmers feel that these laws were enacted under the pressure of WTO and World Bank (WB) to get entry of corporates in the farm production and trade. Secondly, the Centre should give options to states to adopt these laws as per their circumstances either as it is, or make amendments in their respective states because these laws have been made in an unconstitutional manner. Allowing this, states can decide as per their needs. Thirdly, Centre should give an affidavit in the Supreme Court where a petition on this issue is pending and the next hearing of it is on January 5 to hold the implementation of these laws for the next two years. During this period, the apex court can appoint a commission under the chairmanship of a retired judge. This commission can discuss the matter with concerned groups and submit its report which must be tabled in Parliament. Fourthly when several state governments including Punjab, Rajasthan, Chattishgarh etc. have made several amendments to counter these three farm laws then Centre should give its nod, which is required because states have amended the Centre’s Bills, within a week’s time so that even if the Centre rejects such amendments the states can challenge these laws in Supreme Court.”
“Paying MSP for all crops is an important issue and for this the central government should appoint a statutory committee and prepare a report which is bound to be tabled in Parliament for deliberations after which the government should make a law to give remunerative MSP to farmers. Also, Commission for Agriculture Cost and Price (CACP), which gives MSP of 23 crops every year, should be made a constitutional body as by doing this the country will achieve the objective of crop diversification and it will help in decrease the import of several agri crops,” said Sidhu.
He also said that farmers’ unions should present strong alternatives to make these laws ineffective (if the Centre does not repeal them and make some amendments only).
“In the long run, we need changes in the farming structure of the country and yearly packages worth several crores to the states, specially whose which brought ‘Green Revolution’.
A period of five years should be given to stop the exploitation of natural sources there and motivate farmers for crop diversification, to set up agri-based industry in rural areas to provide alternative employment to small farmers and farm labourers, to get assured income for every crop,” he said, adding that it will give huge support to the distress farming.
“The cancellation of these laws will check entry of corporates in the agri sector but after winning this battle we will back on June 4 (three farm ordinances, which have become law now, were notified on June 5, 2020) when the farmers were under acute stress. To check this situation in the future, the Centre has an alternative to change the agri policies as per the need of our country and to revise the economic model of the country,” said Professor Gian Singh.
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