The Union government on Monday constituted the long-awaited committee to look into the functioning of the Minimum Support Price (MSP) mechanism, but the terms of reference make no mention of the farmers’ demand for an MSP guarantee law.
The 28-member committee — promised by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in November 2021 after announcing the repeal of the three farm laws — will be headed by former agriculture secretary Sanjay Agrawal.
The Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM) — the farmers’ collective which had spearheaded the year-long protest against the three laws — gets to send three members to the committee but will be outnumbered as five representatives of farmers’ organisations outside the SKM have already been included by name.
The announcement comes soon after the split within the SKM firmed up last week with 60 member organisations holding a meeting in the capital claiming to be the real Morcha as they have broken ranks on the issue of remaining non-political. They alleged that the other group — arguably the larger of the two — has political leanings and has moved away from the SKM’s foundational policy to remain apolitical.
Representatives on both sides of the divide, however, remained unhappy with the announcement of the committee as it falls way short of their demand for a MSP guarantee law. Ashok Dhawle of All India Kisan Sabha — a key constituent of the larger SKM group — told The Telegraph: “We had apprehended this from the very day the Prime Minister announced the committee. That is why we had not sent names for inclusion in the committee. What is the point of SKM being part of the committee which does not mention MSP guarantee law and is heavily weighed in favour of neo-liberal policies in the farm sector.”
However, he clarified that the SKM will meet soon to take a final decision on how to respond to the government’s decision to set up the committee.
On the other side of the divide, Abhimanyu Kohar of the Bharatiya Kisan Mazdoor Mahasangh questioned the need for a committee when the Prime Minister had, as Gujarat chief minister, submitted a recommendation in writing to the UPA government in 2012, seeking an MSP guarantee law. “He should just implement what he had endorsed 10 years ago,” Kohar said, adding that committees are nothing but delaying tactics.
The committee has been tasked with streamlining the MSP mechanism so that it is effective and transparent and suggests to promote natural farming, besides evolving a strategy for crop diversification and changing the cropping patterns.