ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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The Farm Panel

Concerns on Its Nature and Mandate

This article builds an argument upholding the significance of the minimum support price, increasing the representation of farmers in the 29-member committee notified by the government, the representation of agrarian states, the livestock sector, and a time-bound functioning of the committee for a meaningful interaction and fruitful outcome.

The one-and-half-year-long historic protest waged by the farmers ­under the leadership of Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM) forced the union government to repeal the three controversial farm laws by passing the Farm Laws Repeal Bill on 29 November 2021. Along with the repeal of the laws, the protesting farmers were also deman­ding the legal guarantee of procurement of crops at minimum support price (MSP) for the entire country. Eight months later, on 12 July 2022, the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare (MoAFW), Government of India (GoI) notified a 29-member committee with the stated objective of promoting zero-budget natural farming, bringing crop diversification, and making the MSP more effective and transparent. However, as soon as this decision was made public, the farmer organisations and Punjab government started opposing it. Let us try to unravel what is amiss this time.

The committee is not only opposed due to its structure and nature but its mandate too, which is more serious. Apart from the chairperson and the member secretary, the committee has 27 other members, including one member from NITI Aayog, two economists, nine farmers (six from the government and three representatives of SKM), two from the cooperatives/groups and one from the Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices. Further, three members are from the Agricultural Universities/Institutes of Hyderabad, Jammu, and Jabalpur. In addition, five secretaries of agriculture-related departments of the GoI and the representatives of four state governments, namely Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Sikkim, and Odisha, are included in the committee. So far as the nature of this committee is concerned, it was believed that it would be constituted with adequate representation of farmers with the prime objective of legalising the MSP for farm produce. Unfortunately, the government has diluted this objective, and a large number of government representatives are included in the commi­ttee along with six pro-government far­mer members. According to the farmer orga­nis­ations, only three members from the farmers is gross under-representation. It is also quite clear that almost all the members included in this committee were directly in favour of the new economic policies or the three farm laws. The chairperson of the committee, Sanjay Agarwal, had been advocating the three farm laws and almost all other members have been propagating the merits of farm reforms before they were repealed by the assertion and struggle of farmers. Some members of the committee have been also opposing the prevailing MSP and procurement system. Similarly, some were in favour of disbanding agricultural produce market committee (APMC) markets along with a strong support for contract and corporate farming. All this seems to add to the narrative of still favouring the three farm laws by the government. Due to this, the farmers have refused to include their members in this committee.

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Updated On : 6th Nov, 2022
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