Thousands of farmers from Punjab, Haryana, and Uttar Pradesh have been protesting at Delhi borders since last week, demanding for a rollback of new farm laws. Farmers claim that the new farm laws will hit their income, as those will eventually end the Minimum Support Price (MSP) system and lead to the corporatization of farming. “In states having weak APMC infrastructure, farmers are forced to sell outside mandis and generally they realise a price much lower than the MSP,” Siraj Hussain, former Union Agriculture Secretary, told Financial Express Online.
Though Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other ministers have assured that the MSP will continue irrespective of the new laws, farmers have raised concerns. The government can always issue written orders that procurement of wheat and rice at MSP will continue, Siraj Hussain added, who is also a Visiting Senior Fellow at ICRIER. “However, I am not sure that the government would like to give a similar assurance about other crops,” he further said.
Verbal promises won’t work
The farmers of Punjab and Haryana massively depend on MSP as over 90 per cent of mandi arrivals of wheat and paddy are procured by government agencies at MSP in both states. Farmers are demanding legal status for MSP because Mandis are regulated by the state government, and the Union government extends financial support to the state governments. “At least, we need an executive order for this, verbal promises won’t work. Farmers need statutory support,” Shiv Kumar Sharma, President, Rashtriya Kisan Mahashangha, told Financial Express Online.
Dispute resolution authority
Apart from the MSP issue, there are other issues too, that are haunting the farmers. One of them is the SDM court being the final authority. Farmers are demanding that SDM court should not be the final authority for all issues related to the case of resentment. “We should be allowed to approach higher courts on this issue and should be given escalation under the theory of Natural Justice,” Shiv Kumar Sharma added, who is also a Member of Sanyukt Kisan Manch.
Local produce, global customers
Further, the farmers are of the opinion that the huge availability of spurious and fake agri input in the market due to the contract between farmer and procurer being based on the quality, grades, and standard, it will drain farmers’ income and pollute the environment. “We need best of the technology and agri input to be available of global standard, for which we need a robust regulatory system for the crop protection and crop solutions sector,” Shiv Kumar Sharma further said.
Meanwhile, Union agriculture minister Narendra Singh Tomar and railways minister Piyush Goyal are holding talks with leaders of farmer unions. Nevertheless, at this moment, the outcomes of the talks seem difficult to drive consensus between the farmers and the government.