False narratives about the new farm laws are doing significant harm to the interest of farmers as well as the economy in general, Niti Aayog Vice Chairman Rajiv Kumar said on Monday and expressed his disappointment at some economists changing their stance on the new legislations. As farmers continue their protests demanding repealing of the three new laws, Kumar also emphasised that continued negotiations with protesting farmers is of course the way forward. “Any argument that these measures (the Centre’s new farm laws) will open the farmers for exploitation by large corporates is completely false because the government has assured Minimum Support Price (MSP) to all the farmers on a range of crops,” he told PTI in an interview. The Vice Chairman of Niti Aayog, the government think tank which also plays a key role in formulating economic policies, said that he was dismayed by the dishonesty of some Indian economists, including former chief economic adviser Kaushik Basu who used to support farm reforms, for switching sides and talking in different languages now.
His remarks come against the backdrop of an article written by Basu along with another economist Nirvikar Singh which said that the government should withdraw the farm laws and quickly return to the drafting table to create new laws that are efficient and also fair, and incorporate the perspectives of farmers. “I must here stress my disappointment and dismay at the dishonesty of some of our Indian economists, including our former Chief Economic Adviser (Kaushik Basu) who had continuously supported these measures while he was in the position of Chief Economic Adviser but has now switched sides and is talking in different languages,” Kumar said. Basu, currently a professor of economics at Cornell University, was the Chief Economic Adviser between 2009 and 2012 when the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) was in power. According to him, economists who had earlier supported the farm reforms and are now opposing the new farm laws are not helping in finding a solution because they are helping to create a false narrative which is misleading the farmers. “So, all these false narratives that have been created (about the Centre’s new farm laws) are doing significant harm to the farmers’ own interest and that of the economy in general,” Kumar asserted.
Thousands of farmers from Punjab, Haryana, UP and some other states are protesting against the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, Farmers Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act. Enacted in September, the three farm laws have been projected by the central government as major reforms in the agriculture sector that will remove the middlemen and allow farmers to sell anywhere in the country. However, the protesting farmers have expressed apprehensions that the new laws would pave the way for eliminating the safety cushion of MSP and do away with the mandi system, leaving them at the mercy of big corporates. The Centre has repeatedly assured that MSP and mandi system will continue.