‘More than 85% of farmers’ organizations were in favor of agricultural laws’ – claims a member of the SC committee

The Supreme Court-appointed committee to study the three agricultural laws was in favor of not repealing them completely. Instead, the committee had suggested giving states the right to purchase crops at fixed prices and abolishing the Essential Commodities Act. One of the three members of the committee said this while releasing the report on Monday.

Pune-based farmer leader Anil Ghanvat said he had written to the Supreme Court on three occasions to release the committee’s report, but he was issuing it himself as no response was received. Economist Ashok Gulati and agricultural economist Pramod Kumar Joshi were not present in the two other committee members.

Swatantra Bharat Party President Ghanvat said, “I am releasing this report today. All three laws have been repealed. So it has no relevance now.” According to Ghanvat, the report will help in formulating policies for the agriculture sector in the future.

The committee’s bilateral interactions with stakeholders revealed that only 13.3 per cent of the stakeholders were not in favor of the three laws. Ghanvat said, “About 85.7 per cent farmer organizations representing over 33 million farmers supported the laws.”

The response received through the online portal revealed that almost two-thirds of the respondents were in favor of the laws. The reply received through e-mail also revealed that majority of the people support the laws. Ghanwat said 40 organizations agitating under the banner of the United Kisan Morcha (SKM) did not submit their views despite repeated requests.

The committee had submitted its recommendations on 19 March 2021 on three agriculture laws, which, inter alia, allowed farmers to sell agricultural produce to private companies outside government mandis.

In November last year, ahead of the assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh and Punjab, the Narendra Modi-led government repealed all three agricultural laws. Ghanvat said the committee had also suggested several changes in the laws, including freedom for states to legalize the Minimum Support Price (MSP) system.

The committee had also suggested that the ‘open ended’ procurement policy should be discontinued and a model contract agreement should be prepared.

Prime minister Narendra Modi Announcing the withdrawal of all three agricultural laws in his address to the nation on 19 November, the government said that the government could not convince the protesting farmers about the benefits of agricultural sector reforms.

The three agricultural laws that were repealed were the Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, the Farmers’ (Empowerment and Protection) Price Assurance and Agreement on Agricultural Services, and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act. Repeal of all three agricultural laws was one of the major demands of 40 farmer organizations protesting on the borders of Delhi.

The protests began in late November 2020 and ended after Parliament repealed three laws. All three laws came into force in June 2020 and were repealed in November 2021. On the demand of farmer organizations to legalize the MSP system, the committee in its report said that the demand was not based on sound logic and it is not possible to implement it.

“For wheat and rice, there should be a limit on procurement which is in line with the requirements of the Public Distribution System (PDS),” the report said. The ‘open ended’ procurement policy needs to be discontinued as it is definitely changing the structure of agricultural production.

The committee gave some options on how to proceed for at least ten years. “One of the options that the committee deliberated upon is that the procurement, storage and production of wheat and rice in the states by the central government, procurement and production on PDS, is for the purpose of giving due importance to poverty,” the report said. The current expenditure should be allocated on the basis.

According to the report, “states should be given freedom to develop their own approaches to support farmers in their respective areas and protect poor consumers.”

Ghanwat said he would soon come out with a discussion paper on agriculture policy and also organize a rally of over one lakh farmers in Delhi in October in the national capital to take forward agricultural reforms.

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