Govt sets up committee to strengthen MSP system

The government on Monday formed a committee on Minimum Support Price (MSP), eight months after it promised to set up such a panel while withdrawing the three contentious farm laws

Govt sets up committee to strengthen MSP system
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NH Web Desk

The government on Monday formed a committee on Minimum Support Price (MSP), eight months after it promised to set up such a panel while withdrawing the three contentious farm laws.

Former agriculture secretary Sanjay Agrawal will be the chairman of the committee.

Farmer leader Rakesh Tikait on Monday warned of a "country-wide agriculture hartal" if the demand for a legally guaranteed minimum support price (MSP) was not met by the Narendra Modi government.

Tikait, who is on a three-day tour of Bihar, also urged Chief Minister Nitish Kumar to restore the system of "mandis" and rued the absence of strong farmer bodies in the state.

"I will try to meet Nitish Kumar to press for the demand for restoration of mandis. Ever since these were disbanded, farmers of the state have been facing hardships which their counterparts elsewhere had feared when the Modi government brought its farm laws," the Bharatiya Kisan Union leader said.

The government has made a provision to include three members from Sanyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM) as part of the committee but the farm organisation has so far not given any names to be part of the panel.

Under the umbrella of SKM, thousands of farmers had held around one year-long agitation at Delhi borders and forced the government to withdraw the farm laws.

While announcing the repeal of three farm laws in November last year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had promised to set up a committee to discuss the farmers' demand for a legal guarantee on MSP.

The Agriculture Ministry issued a gazette notification announcing the setting up of a committee in this regard.

The panel will comprise Niti Aayog member Ramesh Chand, agri-economists CSC Shekhar from Indian Institute of Economic Development and Sukhpal Singh from IIM- Ahmedabad and Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices (CACP) senior member Naveen P Singh.

Among farmer representatives, the committee will have National award-winning farmer Bharat Bhushan Tyagi, three members from SKM, and five members from other farmer organisations include Gunwant Patil, Krishnaveer Choudhary, Pramod Kumar Choudhary, Guni Prakash and Sayyed Pasha Patel.

Two members of the farmers' Cooperative and group include IFFCO Chairman Dilip Sanghani and CNRI General Secretary Binod Anand are also part of the committee.

Senior members of agricultural universities, five central government secretaries and chief secretaries of Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Sikkim and Odisha are also part of the committee.

According to the notification, the committee will look at ways to make available MSP to farmers by making the system more effective and transparent.

It will also suggest the practicality of giving more autonomy to CACP that fixes the MSP of Agri crops, and measures to make it more scientific.

Further, the panel will look at ways to strengthen the Agricultural Marketing System as per the changing requirements of the country to ensure higher value to the farmers through remunerative prices of their produce by taking advantage of the domestic and export opportunities.

Besides MSP, the committee will look at ways to promote natural farming, crop diversification, and micro irrigation scheme and suggest strategies for making Krishi Vigyan Kendras (KVKs) and other Research and Development institutions as knowledge centres.

Tikait claimed that scrapping of the Agriculture Produce Marketing Committee Act in 2006 has forced farmers of Bihar to resort to distress selling.

Tikait said farmers must now consider switching back to "hari khaad" (natural fertilisers) since chemically developed ones are environmentally hazardous and expensive.

"If it leads to a drop in productivity, so be it. The government has been turning a deaf ear to our demand for MSP guarantee since it knows farmers will not cease to produce and look for avenues to sell," he said.

"But the government should make no mistake. If needed, farmers of the country will go on an agriculture hartal, triggering a crisis that will bring the government on its knees," he warned.

Tikait also claimed that the NDA's choice of former West Bengal Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar, a "Kisan ka beta" (son of a farmer), for the Vice-Presidential polls was a result of the impact the farmers' agitation around Delhi had on national politics.

The farmer leader, who has stayed away from electoral politics, was also of the view that Nitish Kumar and his JD(U) should be on their guard against ally BJP.

"The BJP is vicious. It is gunning for the Nehru-Gandhi family and has caused parties like the Shiv Sena to disintegrate," Tikait alleged.

(with PTI inputs

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Published: 19 Jul 2022, 10:50 AM