NEW DELHI: As a continuous confrontation between the government and the protest groups farmers over three new agricultural laws, Minister of Agriculture Narendra Singh Tomar said on Tuesday that the documents were welcome different states across the country, but the Center is willing to continue discussions with “true agricultural unions” to find an open-minded solution.
He also said that the Minimum Support Price (MSP), at which the government is committed to procuring products from farmers, is an administrative decision and “will continue as it is”.
Tomar’s comments followed a meeting with members of the Bharatiya Kisan (Kisan) Union in Uttar Pradesh, who sent the minister a memorandum with suggestions on the Farm Law and the MSP.
The Bharatiya Kisan (Kisan) Union has also decided to end its district-level protest in Uttar Pradesh for the time being. They were not part of the nearly 40 groups of farmers who protested at various borders of the national capital and participated in recent rounds of talks with the Center without any discovery.
According to the ministry statement, Tomar thanked the BKU (Kisan) leaders for coming to support agricultural laws and said that these laws have been welcomed in various states across the country.
“He (Tomar) added that the government is willing to continue the dialogue with real agricultural unions and is willing to find a solution with an open mind,” the statement said.
BKU (Kisan) leaders suggested that farmers be given the option to go to civil courts in the event of a dispute. They also suggested that Chief Panchayat would be given the same importance as Chief Mandi to protect the rights of farmers in small towns and villages.
In the case of the Essential Goods Act, they suggested that it should prevent hoarding and black marketing.
Union leaders also suggested lowering electricity tariffs for irrigation and making electricity available for longer hours in Uttar Pradesh.
They also proposed that crop standards be set at supply centers so that farmers do not face any problems in selling products.
After the meeting, the President of BKU (Kisan) Pawan Thakur he told reporters: “The minister explained the laws in detail and we realized that the laws are very good. We had some doubts, he erased them all … The minister said he would analyze our requests.”
He also said that the union is stopping its protest for now in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand.
“If our demands are not met, we will protest again,” he added.
“The minister has listened carefully to our key amendments. He said the government is already discussing these issues. We have suggested six issues to make the laws more effective. We are pleased with the talks with the minister. We believe the government is working positively,” said Acharya Ram Gopala Dixit , owner of BKU (Kisan) since 2009.
According to a previous memorandum from union members, they pressed for separate legislation to ensure guaranteed crop MSP, saying the intermediary buys crops at a lower rate from farmers and sells them to the government at MSP.
“We want a law on MSP, so that crops outside the mandis cannot be sold below this rate. Farmers have suffered losses this kharif season as they have been forced to sell under MSP. If our request is accepted, we are ready to support the laws. I don’t know how fast the crops will sell. Ideally, our crops should be sold over MSP, but sold below that rate, “Thakur had said before meeting Tomar.
Tomar and other ministers, inclusive Rajnath Singh they have met in recent days with various farmers’ unions that have expanded support for the new laws.
However, several other agricultural unions, especially from Punjab and Haryana, continue to protest for more than two weeks against the three agricultural laws, saying the new legislation will dismantle MSP and mandi systems and leave them within the reach of companies.
Some ministers also said that some anti-social elements and Maoists were misusing the farmers’ protest platform to continue their own agenda.
Speaking in Gujarat, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said separately that “a conspiracy is underway to confuse the farmers who have gathered near Delhi today.”
The center announces MSP for more than 20 Kharif and Rabbi cultures. It mainly purchases wheat and rivers to fulfill its commitment under the National Food Security Act and to create buffer stocks.
The government, according to the food law, provides 5 kg of wheat or rice per person per month, at 2-3 rupees per kg, for over 80 million people through rationing shops. Finally, the Center also purchases legumes and oilseeds under various schemes, such as the Stabilization Fund.
In its proposal to farmers on Wednesday last week, the Center said it would provide written assurance that the MSP system would remain and address their other key concerns. However, the unions are calling for the complete repeal of central laws and have threatened to escalate their unrest.