Farmers who back the laws also see the need to guarantee prices
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s speech on Friday, in which he defended the new agricultural laws and renewed his offer of talks with agricultural leaders, has been rejected by protesting farmers camped on the borders of Delhi, even as some other agricultural organizations They said they are willing to give the change a chance.
However, most farmers, whether or not they are part of the protest, seem to agree on one basic point: the need for guaranteed prices.
Satpal Singh, a member of Bharatiya Kisan Majdoor Sangh, attended the Prime Minister’s speech at his home in Balia, Uttar Pradesh. “The Prime Minister has said that he will never allow the interests of farmers to be harmed. I believe these laws will benefit us by giving us more options. But farmers should get minimum prices, ”Singh said.
To be sure, the organization Singh is a member of has publicly supported the government’s reform agenda and its leader, Chaudhury Ram Kumar Balia, has met with agriculture minister Narendra Tomar to commit to supporting three farm laws other unions, mainly from Punjab and Haryana, want scrapped.
Several small farmers not aligned with any large political parties or agricultural unions said they did not understand the laws.
“We saw the speech in the panchayat office. If farmers protest for better prices, I support them. I don’t understand the laws, but I think big buyers should come to us. The local markets are in bad shape, ”said Kadam Barua, a rice farmer in Assam’s Lakhimpur district.
Modi, in an important speech to farmers on Friday, said his government was open to talks with farm unions and even opposition parties that have gone ahead with a massive pushback against their farm policies as long as discussions are based on “tark “and” tathya “(Hindi for ‘arguments and facts’), but he strongly defended his agenda of agricultural reform necessary to” modernize “the agricultural sector.
Agricultural unions protesting the laws, which have crouched on the capital’s borders, criticized the prime minister’s speech.
“Not once did the prime minister address the protesting farmers. The questions you raised did not address the main problem. Farmers want guaranteed prices, ”said Avik Saha of the All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee, a leading platform of agricultural unions in protest.
Even those who agreed with the prime minister said that farmers should get minimum prices, underscoring a common complaint from farmers.
“We have said that we support the laws, but the mandi must be strengthened so that the farmers get minimum support prices,” said Satpal Singh, from the Kurukshetra Association of Agricultural Producers Organizations. He is a different person than his namesake mentioned above. Your organization has also supported the laws.
The massive farmer rebellion was sparked by three laws pushed by the government in September that allow agribusinesses to trade with minimal regulation, allow traders to store large quantities of food products for economies of scale, and establish new farming rules for contract.
Farmers say the new rules favor large corporations with which they will lose business and gradually end the minimum price system set by the state.
The prime minister in his speech on Friday insisted that the reforms would not affect the mechanism of the MSP, which would continue as before. However, it has not promised to provide legal backing for this. “The Opposition is misleading the farmers regarding the MSP. If farmers want to sell at msp, they can go mandis. If they think they are receiving prices from private traders, they have the freedom, ”said the prime minister.
On Wednesday, Darshan Pal, a major agricultural leader, explained why guaranteeing minimum prices was not enough. The government sets minimum prices for 23 commodities, but mainly buys wheat and rice at these minimum prices. The so-called minimum support prices or MSP are calculated using a cultivation cost measure known as A2 + FL, which is a narrower measure of cultivation costs that takes into account all the cultivation expenses of a particular crop plus the value of family work.
Pal said the agricultural unions want the government to adopt a comprehensive measure of cultivation costs that includes the imputed cost of capital and land rental, called ‘C2’ in economic terms. Farmers also want the government to buy the 23 staples, which would massively inflate their food subsidy bill.
“The problem is that the government cannot buy the 23 basic products, as the farmers demand. This makes little economic sense. Farmers need guaranteed prices and support, but they must be supported by means that distort the market less, ”said Pravesh Sharma, former Madhya Pradesh secretary of agriculture and member of the ICRIER think tank.