Protesting farmers and the unions have asked the government not to repeat meaningless amendments, and remain adamant on repeal of the new farm laws. Not to budge from their stance, they have asked for a concrete proposal in writing for the next round of talks.
Sankyukt Kisan Morcha, in a letter to the Union Agriculture Joint Secretary Vivek Aggarwal, pointed out that the government is treating farmers as “political opponents”. “We are surprised that the government is not able to understand our basic objections,” the letter said. “Representatives of farmers have demanded a complete repeal of these farm laws, but the government wants to cleverly project our demands for amendments. In our previous talks, we have clearly told the government that they don’t want amendments.”
The kisan leaders called out the government for no specific details on MSP or electricity pricing. Some union leaders, as per various reports, alleged that the government is deliberately delaying taking a decision to tire out the farmers. Yudhvir Singh of the Bhartiya Kisan Union said the way Centre is carrying this process of talks, its clear that the government wants to delay this issue and break the morale of the protesting farmers. “The government is taking our issues lightly, I’m warning them to take cognizance of the matter and find a solution soon.”
MSP at the heart of farmers’ demand
MSP is the farmers’ core demand. The new agriculture laws do not mention the MSP system in which the government buys farmers’ produce at minimum price. The Centre reiterated that the system is not being done away with. The protesting farmers are not agreeing to the government’s MSP claim that the minimum price has been increased from what it was before 2014. Rakesh Tikait, Bharatiya Kisan Union spokesperson, had earlier said farmers are not getting the prices which is leading to the incidents of suicide.
Aunindyo Chakravarty, senior economic analyst, wrote in The Tribune that the MSP announced by the government acts as a signal price for all trade in crops across the country. He said if the government had been serious about increasing farm income, it would have strengthened MSP-based procurement. “Only the state can intervene to protect farmers from the vagaries of market forces. That can only be done by government procurement at assured minimum prices. Private procurers and big agri-businesses can never do that,” Chakravarty explained. “Except in the world of native textbook economics. In that world, if agricultural trade is opened up to everyone, farmers will have a wider range of buyers to choose from. This will help them demand more for their products and end up with better prices than the MSP system can.”
He further stated that the three new laws ensure that farmers will be powerless in front of big corporate agri-buyers. “Purchase contracts will have to be agreed to before the sowing season. The farmer will have to ensure that the quality of the crop meets the contracted standards. The buyer will have the right to terminate the contract whenever he wants. If there’s a dispute, the farmer will not be able to go to any civil court. In effect, the farmer will be at the mercy of the corporate buyer.”