New Delhi: The Modi government seems to have drawn its line for negotiations with the protesting farmers demanding the repeal of the three farm laws.
Sources in the government and the BJP said the farmers may be offered a few safeguards to assuage their concerns regarding the impact they fear the laws will have on the Agricultural Produce Marketing Committee (APMC) mandi framework, and a simplified grievance redressal mechanism to secure the sales of their produce.
However, the sources added, the government is firm that farmers need to delink their demand for MSP as a legal right from the farm laws as the issues are not seen as linked.
Farmers, primarily from Punjab and Haryana, are currently holed up at Delhi’s borders as part of their protest against three new farm laws that the government has pitched as long-due agricultural reform.
The two sides are in the midst of discussions on finding a way out of the impasse, with the next round of talks scheduled for Thursday.
Of the three laws passed by Parliament earlier this year, farmers are primarily opposed to the provisions of the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, aka the ‘contract farming law’.
The law allows all farmers to sell their produce outside APMC mandis, without going through licensed traders. While the law aims to free farmers from APMC charges and the obligation of making sales through middlemen, it appears to have evoked concerns that it will lead to the dismantling of the APMC framework.
Since farmers are assured fixed prices for certain products at APMC mandis, this has sparked fears that sales outside may translate to lower returns.
Farmers want the government to ensure that, even in the open market, no one should be allowed to make purchases below the minimum support price (MSP).
Another fear concerns the grievance redressal mechanism outlined under the law, which requires farmers to approach district authorities if a certain buyer fails to uphold their purchase or payment commitments. This has been dismissed as a more more bureaucratic and time-consuming process.
After an inconclusive round of talks with farmer unions Tuesday, Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar and Railways and Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal met Union Home Minister Amit Shah at the latter’s residence Wednesday to discuss the strategy for Thursday’s discussions.
The ministers briefed Shah on what transpired at the meeting Tuesday, where the farmers were asked by the government to furnish a detailed account of the exact objections they have with the laws.
Speaking to ThePrint, Agriculture Minister Tomar said: “This is a pro-farmer government and this law was brought for the welfare of the farmers. We are continuously deliberating on their concerns and that is the reason several meetings have been going on. Once they send their objections, we will discuss what can be done.”
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‘MSP needs to be delinked’
Speaking to ThePrint, a senior BJP leader said the government “has been listening to farmers’ grievances and wants to resolve the situation soon”.
“They have been asked to study the farm laws in detail and, clause-wise, give us their objections or share whatever apprehensions they have. As far as apprehensions regarding dismantling of APMC is concerned, we are willing to put in place safeguards and ensure some more changes. The three farm laws do not talk about dismantling the APMC or doing away with MSP,” the leader added.
BJP national spokesperson Gopal Krishna Agarwal said the “government may consider making certain changes in clauses of the farm laws if farmers show that they are harming the interest of the agriculture sector” and address “their apprehensions about dismantling of the APMC infrastructure”.
“Although there is consensus about monopoly (of APMCs), and exploitation by… local mandis, and farmers have themselves been demanding that they be allowed to sell outside the mandis, we have desisted from any clause disbanding APMCs,” he said.
“But, still, if farmers want certain safeguards, we are willing to do that.”
However, he said, the issue of MSP has no link with the three farm laws and the farmers’ unions “need to understand that”.
“As far as MSP is concerned, it doesn’t pertain to any of these three laws, and the changes in the administrative structure of MSP in the manner the farmers are demanding is not possible. The government has clearly maintained that MSP will remain. However, still, these issues of MSP can be taken up as a separate demand but not in respect of the three farm laws,” he added.
MSP as a right has been one of the key demands of the protesting farmers.
“We want all the three farm laws to be withdrawn and MSP should be turned into an entitlement, a law. We will not accept anything less than this,” Pratibha Shinde of the All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee (AIKSCC), an umbrella organisation leading the protests, had told ThePrint.
Another BJP leader said the option to make MSP a legal right is not practical. “Only 15 per cent of purchases are done through MSP, so legalising MSP will harm 85 per cent of farmers. Talks can move more pragmatically when the farmers will delink MSP from farm laws. There is no connection between the two and they need to understand that,” added the leader.
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A simplified grievance redressal mechanism
According to sources, the government is also looking at making changes in respect of the grievance redressal mechanism enshrined in the contract farming law, and may make this offer to the farmer Thursday.
Government sources said there is a possibility that the central government will constitute a committee for the redressal of demands raised by the farmers.
“As these concerns can’t be addressed by the farmers unions alone, so after getting their clause-by-clause objections, the government will propose a committee that will come up with a way out in a time-bound manner,” the source added.
A similar proposal, to have a committee look into their concerns, was rejected by farmers Tuesday.
The second BJP leader quoted above said the government may “tweak some provisions of the Act where farmers have raised concerns over the complaint redressal mechanism”.
BJP sources said the government might offer them a more simplified redressal mechanism. At the same time, the sources added, the central government may also propose a regulatory body like the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) to address their complaints in case they take up the issue at the meeting.
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mere account me pm kaire ka 2000 hajr nhe atta hai 224181
Demanding MSP as a law is naive . It is as if I am forced to pay a price irrespective of the quality of product. In fact, it brings to mind the license raj. On a lighter note, it also reminds me of auto rickshaw drivers outside airports and train stations before Uber and Ola who would rip off people with exorbitant prices. It is some farmer who is still selling to private firms now. These are only rising in India and will continue to do so. An open market means government letting go of control of pricing. In fact, the MSPs do not even cover many crops. There is definitely politics behind this move too to shift the control of cartel from one group to another but it seems like a give and take is the only way forward to this impasse.
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