A day after farmer unions, protesting at Delhi’s borders against the new farm laws, said they are open to talks if a more concrete proposal is made, the government responded Thursday saying it is ready for “logical resolution” of all issues raised by the farmers.
In a letter to 40 representatives of farmer unions, Vivek Aggarwal, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare, urged them to decide the time and date for the next round of talks, and also “give details of other issues on which you want to negotiate”.
“The Government of India again wants to reiterate its commitment that it is ready for logical resolution of all issues raised by the agitating farmer unions,” he said.
Writing to the Ministry a day earlier, farmer unions had said that apart from the three central Acts, “your ‘proposal’ on Minimum Support Prices had nothing clear or concrete which deserved a response from our side. On Minimum Support Prices, you had proposed a ‘written assurance’ with regard to continuing the current procurement system. However, farmers’ organisations are demanding a legal guarantee that all agricultural commodities will be purchased only at MSP or above, that too at an MSP fixed with C2+50% formula as per the National Farmers’ Commission recommendation. When the Government sends the draft of such a legislation (for legally guaranteed realisation of remunerative MSP for all agricultural commodities and for all farmers), we will give a detailed reply without any delay.”
Seeking a legal guarantee on MSP, the unions are now linking MSP to the “C2+50% formula”.
In a memorandum to the Agriculture Secretary on October 14, union representatives had listed five demands, of which three were related to MSP, which included implementation of the Swaminathan Commission report “to fix MSP with C2+ 50% formulae”; and make MSP and state procurement of all crops a legal right of farmers.
The Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices projects three kinds of production cost — A2, A2+FL, and C2 — for every crop, both at state and all-India average levels.
A2 covers all paid-out costs directly incurred by the farmer — in cash and kind — on seeds, fertilisers, pesticides, hired labour, leased-in land, fuel, irrigation, etc.
A2+FL includes A2 plus an imputed value of unpaid family labour.
C2 is a more comprehensive cost that factors in rentals and interest forgone on owned land and fixed capital assets, on top of A2+FL.
Referring to the MSP-related demand of the unions, Aggarwal wrote, “The three laws related to agricultural reforms have no relation to the minimum support price-based procurement nor do these have any effect on the system of MSP-based procurement system already there before the enactment of these three laws.”
“This was mentioned in every round of talks. It was also clarified that the government is ready to give a written assurance regarding the continuation of the present system of MSP-based procurement,” he said in the letter.
“It does not seem logical to put any new demand on this subject, which is removed from the new agricultural laws. But as stated earlier, the government is ready to discuss all issues raised by you,” Aggarwal said.
On the unions stand on the Electricity Amendment Act and the issue of stubble burning, he said the government is ready for talks on additional issues – other than issues identified at the December 3 meeting between the government and the unions.
He said the government is ready to discuss the issues, with good intentions and an open heart, to end the agitation.
A day earlier, reading from the letter sent by farmer leaders, Swaraj India president Yogendra Yadav told the press at Singhu border: “We urge the government not to repeat those meaningless amendments which we have already rejected, but to come up with a concrete proposal in writing, so that can be made an agenda and the process of negotiation can be started as soon as possible. We are waiting for the government to proceed with an open mind and clean intentions.”