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Farmers’ Agitation: All Attention On PM’s Kisan Sammelan In Varanasi On June 18

Let the Govt return to the table with clean hands and open mind, and the farmers reciprocate in the same spirit

 

Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led BJP government has literally been on a collision course with the agitating farmers in several parts of the country, especially the more belligerent among them from Punjab, Haryana and western Uttar Pradesh, demanding among other things legal guarantees for government procurement of crops at minimum support price (MSP).

Now, with a reduced mandate, for which the angry rural communities have apparently been partly responsible with their anger being encashed by the Opposition, what stand the new National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government under his leadership takes would be closely watched.

Therefore, all attention is focussed on the Prime Minister’s address at the much-hyped ‘kisan sammelan’ in Varanasi on June 18, his first big public rally after being elected for a third consecutive term as member of Parliament from the constituency and getting a record- equalling third consecutive term as Prime Minister after Jawahar Lal Nehru in 1962.

How massively the sammelan has been planned in dual mode can be judged from the fact that nearly two crore farmers from across states are expected to join physically and virtually, Invitations had also been extended to chief ministers of all states.

According to newly appointed Union Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare Minister and former four-time Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, several Union ministers have been tasked to interact with cultivators and officials simultaneously by visiting 50 chosen Krishi Vigyan Kendras across the country. Nearly 100,000 primary agricultural cooperatives have been approached to join the event virtually.

Early indicators have been emanating from the newly formed NDA government about its keenness to tackle the farmers’ agitation on priority considering that its continuation could seriously dent the NDA’s prospects in the upcoming assembly elections in Maharashtra, Haryana and Jharkhand.

The agitation has serious implications for the economy too. It has the potential to severely retard the government’s push for accelerated growth to achieve the targets of India emerging as the third largest economy in the next couple of years and ‘Viksit Bharat’ by 2047.

According to reports, the first file signed by Modi after being sworn-in on June 9 was for approving the 17th tranche of Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi (PM KISAN), under which Rs 2,000 cash grant is being given to more than nine crore farmers every four months.

Secondly, in Shivraj Singh Chouhan, Modi has picked one of the most experienced BJP leaders to entrust the farm and farmers’ welfare portfolio.

On June 18, Modi will formally set the ball rolling for the transfer of Rs 20,000 crore directly to the bank accounts of 9.3 crore farmers under the PM KISAN scheme.

Krishi Sakhis

He will also induct 30,000 trained women ‘Krishi Sakis’ or farm counsellors belonging to self-help groups from 12 states by handing over certificates to them. These women have been trained in farm practices by the Rural Development Ministry under a memorandum of understanding inked with the Agriculture Ministry. These ‘Krishi Sakhis’ can expect to earn an additional income of Rs 60,000- Rs 80,000 a year. This scheme is another dimension of the ‘Lakhpati Didi’ scheme for rural women entrepreneurs.

The scheme has initially been started in 12 states – Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Odisha, Jharkhand, Andhra Pradesh and Meghalaya.

100-day agenda

Farmers’ Agitation: All Attention On PM’s Kisan Sammelan In Varanasi On June 18, LifeinchdThe ministry is also expected to formally release its 100-day agenda soon which is expected to make boosting output of pulses and edible oils, two items India still relies on imports to meet domestic demand, central to its future strategy to boost diversification of crops and increase farmers’ incomes.

However, given the mistrust, the negotiations between the representatives of umbrella bodies of the agitating farmers and farm labourers and the government, as and when these happen, will not be easy and cannot be expected to be wrapped up in a hurry.

The most ticklish issue of course is the farmers’ demand for legal guarantees for government to procure crops at MSP, which the government has clearly shown its unwillingness to fulfil despite having promised to do so, apart from repealing the three controversial farm laws, as part of a deal to lift the farmers’ nearly two-year siege of the National capital in 2020-21.

Farmers see in this unwillingness the Modi government’s hidden agenda of boosting the corporate sector’s involvement in agriculture, which they fear will, in the long run, destroy the livelihoods of small and marginal farmers and farm labourers.

Farmers’ Agitation: All Attention On PM’s Kisan Sammelan In Varanasi On June 18, LifeinchdEconomists are also not exactly in favour of the government granting legal safeguards for procuring crops at MSP, as recommended by the MS Swaminathan commission, arguing that it does not make any economic sense and will not help the farm sector and the farmers grow. They contend that Swaminathan was a great farm scientist but not an economist to understand the intricacies of the impact that the implementation of his recommendations will have on the economy as a whole and the farmers in particular in the long run.

Alternative mechanism to MSP

A proposed alternative mechanism, Deficiency Price Payments (DPP), under which there is no physical procurement of crops at MSP by the government, but it intervenes to compensate the farmers for the difference between the MSPs for select crops and their market price if it rules at lower levels, is also not finding favour with the agitating farmers, especially in Punjab, Haryana and western Uttar Pradesh.

Whether under popular pressure, or suspected partisan considerations, they are not prone to reasoning and hell bent on the easy option of procurement of crops by the government at MSP.

Farmers’ Agitation: All Attention On PM’s Kisan Sammelan In Varanasi On June 18, LifeinchdIn latest negotiations held during the farmers’ agitation 2.0 launched ahead of the Lok Sabha elections, the government team, headed by then Union Agriculture Minister Arjun Munda, expressed its willingness to offer MSP for five years on pulses, maize and cotton to farmers who shift from the wheat-paddy cycle to cultivating these three crops as part of the government’s push for much needed diversification of crops. The offer was summarily rejected by the umbrella body of the agitating farmers.

The farmers’ agitation 2.0 had triggered pitched battles between the farmers, determined to march to the National capital on tractors, tractor trolleys etc, and an equally determined Haryana Police, which used all lethal means at its disposal at several places to stop them from crossing the Punjab-Haryana border for onward passage to their destination.

The police were using disproportionate force apparently having been given a free hand by the then Manohar Lal led BJP government, which itself was clearly acting at the behest of the BJP government at the Centre.

In retaliation, the angry farmers, frustrated the BJP candidates and leaders in their attempts to campaign for the Lok Sabha elections in the rural areas in many parts of the country, especially Punjab and Haryana, by chasing them away despite heavy security provided to them.

Open-minded approach to talks

For negotiations to be meaningful and conclusive, the government needs to invite the farmers back to the table with clean hands and an open mind, and the farmers to respond in the same spirit.

Eventually, under the given circumstances, a common ground can be reached only through mutual accommodation, dovetailing the farmers’ interests (by satisfactorily addressing their concerns) into the country’s short and long-term interests.

Farmers’ Agitation: All Attention On PM’s Kisan Sammelan In Varanasi On June 18, LifeinchdAgriculture and allied sector is poised to grow and diversify at a much faster rate worldwide to meet the ever-growing requirement for safe and affordable food products of a rapidly growing population, including the demand for a wide variety of high value products driven largely by the young population.

Also, agriculture and allied has been identified as a key sector, along with manufacturing, services and others, to drive the country on a high growth path in line with its targets of becoming the third largest economy in the short-term and a developed nation by 2047.

Didn’t we transition from bullock-driven ploughs to tractors, combines, tillers, seeders and other modern farm implements! Now we need to look beyond the no-longer-sustainable wheat-paddy cycle towards newer horizons, keeping pace with the food demands of modern times and in the process improving the prospects for better farm incomes.

After all, change is the only constant, the earlier we accept it, the better!

Farmers’ Agitation: All Attention On PM’s Kisan Sammelan In Varanasi On June 18, Lifeinchd

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