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SKM rejects MSP panel: ‘Law on support price not on agenda, stacked with govt loyalists’

The terms of reference of the committee do not mention any legal guarantee on MSP, which is one of the key demands of the Samyukta Kisan Morcha.

Former agriculture secretary Sanjay Agrawal is the chairman of the committee. The government has made a provision to include three members from the Sanyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM) in the panel. (File)

The Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM) on Tuesday announced it would not join the 29-member panel set up by the Centre to make minimum support price (MSP) more “effective and transparent”. The Union government had notified the formation of the committee the day before.

The SKM — an umbrella body of farmers’ organisations that led the protest against three central farm laws for over a year, forcing the government to repeal them last November — took the decision at a meeting of its coordination committee.

In a statement, the coordination committee said, “There is no scope to discuss the MSP law in the agenda of this committee full of government representatives and its loyalists. Samyukta Kisan Morcha has rejected the committee formed by the Government of India on MSP and other issues, and has decided not to nominate its representative in the committee.”

The SKM went on to add, “All the doubts of Samyukta Kisan Morcha about this committee have come true with the notification issued by the Government. Obviously, there is no rationale for sending our representatives to such an anti-farmer and meaningless committee.”

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The farmers’ organisation also accused the government of trying to “complete the paperwork” by announcing the panel before the Monsoon session of Parliament.

The terms of reference of the committee do not mention any legal guarantee on MSP, one of the SKM’s key demands. Krantikari Kisan Union president and SKM coordination committee member Dr Darshan Pal said the government had asked the Morcha for names for the MSP committee in March. In response, the organisation emailed the Agriculture Secretary on March 24, asking about the panel’s terms of reference, the name of its chairperson, the time it will be given to submit a report, and if the recommendations will be binding on the government.

“The government did not respond to these questions. Yet, the Agriculture Minister kept making statements that the formation of the committee got stalled due to the non-receipt of the names of representatives from the Samyukta Kisan Morcha,” said CPI(M) leader and SKM leader Hannan Mollah.

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Questioning the composition of the MSP panel, the farmers’ outfit said, “The chairman of the committee is former Agriculture Secretary Sanjay Agarwal who drafted all three anti-farmer laws. He is accompanied by Ramesh Chand, a member of NITI Aayog who was the main advocate of these three laws. As experts, it is the economists who have been against giving legal status to MSP.”

The SKM said that while the names of three of its representatives had been sought, “in the name of farmer leaders, the government has placed its five loyalists who openly advocated for all three anti-farmer laws”. The five are Gunwant Patil, Pramod Kumar Choudhary, Krishna Veer Choudhary, Guni Parkash, and Syed Pasha Patel.

The SKM alleged in its statement, “All these people are either directly associated with the BJP-RSS or support their policy. Krishna Veer Choudhary is associated with the Indian Farmers’ Society and is a leader of the BJP. Syed Pasha Patel is a former BJP MLC from Maharashtra. Pramod Kumar Choudhary is a member of the National Executive of the RSS-affiliated Bharatiya Kisan Sangh. Gunwant Patil, associated with the Shetkari Sangathana, is a WTO advocate and general secretary of the Swatantra Bharat Paksh Party. Guni Prakash has been a pioneer in opposing the farmers’ movement. These five people spoke openly in favour of all three anti-farmer laws and most of them have been spewing venom against the farmers’ movement.”

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The farmers’ organisation said that instead of discussing a law on MSP, an item had been inserted into the agenda “in the name of reforms in agricultural marketing”. The government could use it “to bring back the three black laws”, it claimed.

Earlier in the day, Dr Darshan Pal pointed out that despite Punjab leading the protests on the matter none of the experts in the MSP panel were from the state. “We will expose the MSP committee,” he said. “Punjab has been ignored completely. All pro-government members are part of it. What difference will our three members make? We reject it.”

Pal said the SKM wanted a committee exclusively to discuss MSP law. “But in this committee, they have included issues such as diversification and natural farming for which separate committees are already there in the agriculture department. It seems they will go round and round and will not arrive at any conclusion to give assured MSP on crops.”

Bharatiya Kisan Union (Ugrahan), or BKU (Ugrahan), president Joginder Singh Ugrahan, who is also a member of the SKM coordination committee, said, “In a July 3 meeting of the SKM’s national body in Ghaziabad, we decided that without proper knowledge about this committee there is no point in sending our members. Our personal decision is to expose the motive behind the MSP committee.”

BKU Dakaunda general secretary and SKM member Jagmohan Singh Patiala said, “The formation of the MSP committee was a demand of farmers who were doing agitation against the three farm laws and hence this committee should have our members in a majority. Sad enough they have left just three places for SKM. The chairman is a former agriculture secretary SK Aggarwal who was in service when farm laws were framed. Ramesh Chand from the NITI Aayog again is pro-farm laws. Sad enough there is no representative of the Punjab and Haryana governments from where the agitation began and sad that the Punjab government has been mum about it till now.”

First published on: 19-07-2022 at 11:55:59 am
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