The government – facing the second mass uprising in four years by farmers demanding, among other things, a law guaranteeing the MSP, or minimum support price, for all crops – has said the United Kisan Morcha, one of the farmers’ organizations behind the protest, “is more effective than the MSP.” and transparent” has never nominated representatives to the committee formed in July 2022.
A notification was issued on July 12 quoting Prime Minister Narendra Modi as saying that “a committee will be formed to promote zero budget farming, change cropping patterns keeping in view the changing needs of the country and make MSP more effective and transparent.”
The committee will comprise representatives of the Central and various state governments as well as farmers and agricultural scientists and economists, the notification said. In the notification, 25 of the 29 members, including former agriculture secretary Sanjay Agarwal, have been named as chairpersons.
In the space for “farmers’ representatives”, the notification included three members of the United Kisan Morcha and, immediately, it asked to “add name on receipt”.
Legal guarantees for MSP and opposition to extending the policy to cover all crops are among the primary reasons why more than 200 farmers’ organizations and an estimated one lakh farmers launched ‘Delhi Chalo 2.0’ – a march on the national capital today – of violent clashes in 2020/21. Worrying repetition.
Read | Video: Farmers throw barriers from flyover, face water cannons
It didn’t take long for the violence to break out; In fact, minutes after the farmers began the march, police fired tear gas and water cannons at the Shambhu border crossing between Punjab and Haryana, if not dispersing, the thousands of farmers from each state who had already gathered.
— ANI (@ANI) February 13, 2024
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. The video also showed scenes like a war zone with farmers, with scarves around their faces, jumping over concrete barriers to push aside metal barricades and green fields engulfed in tear gas.
Read | Farmers tried to cross the Punjab-Haryana border, using tear gas
The ruling BJP – aware of the potential negative optics of another large-scale farmer protest just weeks before the elections – has reached out to farmers. Two Union ministers, including junior agriculture minister Arjun Munda, have already held a single meeting, in which some deals were struck.
Read | What are the major demands of farmers that remain unresolved?
Mr. Munda told NDTV that “some people want to create problems” and appealed to farmers to be patient. “The government is committed to the interests of farmers.”
Read | Willing to negotiate, but some don’t want a solution: Minister to NDTV
However, gaps remain on critical issues – such as the MSP guarantee, farm loan waiver and implementation of the recommendations of the MS Swaminathan Commission.
Significantly, the first point is supported by Dr RB Singh, a Padma Bhushan awardee and a member of that commission, who told NDTV, “For farmers to get a fair price for their crops, a new law on MSP is necessary….” he said. That the panel wants to fix MSP 50 percent higher than the cost of production. “But this is not applied uniformly…” he said.
Read | Amid farmers’ protests, Swaminathan Commission member supports legislation on MSP
The commission was headed by MS Swaminathan, who is considered the ‘Father of the Green Revolution’ in the country. He received the Bharat Ratna – India’s highest civilian award – this month, with the Prime Minister declaring his “visionary leadership… has transformed Indian agriculture…”.
Read | Bharat Ratna to MS Swaminathan, the founder of Green Revolution
Meanwhile, Rakesh Tikait, a key figure in the 2020/21 protests, has endorsed and warned of this second ‘Delhi Chalo’ movement.
Read | Farmer leader Rakesh Tikait warns “if the government creates problems”.
“There are many farmers’ unions and they have different issues… If the government creates problems for the farmers marching towards Delhi, we are not far away…” he told reporters.
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