Eight months after rolling back farm laws, Centre sets up MSP panel

Nearly eight months after the government repealed the three controversial farm Acts, it has constituted a high-powered panel under the chairmanship of former agriculture secretary Sanjay Agarwal to make the minimum support price (MSP) mechanism more effective and transparent as promised by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his televised address announcing the repeal.

The names of three members from the Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM), the main grouping that spearheaded the year-long agitation at Delhi’s borders, have been withheld, pending receipt by the government, stated a gazette notification.

NITI Aayog member Ramesh Chand, Indian Institute of Management-Ahmedabad Professor Sukhpal Singh, Indian Farmers Fertiliser Cooperative chairman Dilip Sanghani, secretaries of the Departments of Agriculture, Indian Council of Agricultural Research, Food and Consumer Affairs, Cooperation and Textiles, along with representatives from the state governments of Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Sikkim, and Odisha will also form part of the panel.

From the farmer groups, other than SKM, who have been included in the panel include Gunvant Patil, Krishan Bir Singh Choudhury, Pramod Kumar Chaudhary, Gunni Prakash, and Sayyed Pasha Patel.

Patil, Patel, and Bir Singh Choudhury had been supporters of the now-repealed farm Acts and opposed SKM. A few, said sources, are even considered close to the ruling dispensation.

Interestingly, Agarwal, who will chair the panel, was at the helm when the three farm Acts were brought in and was at the forefront of more than 10 rounds of negotiations that the agitating farmers had with the central government during the agitation.

Meanwhile, among other names, representatives of agriculture universities and institutions have also been included in the panel.

Joint secretary (crops) in the Ministry of Agriculture will be the member secretary in the panel.

“During the agitation, farmers were assured that a panel would be formed to look into their demands for legalising MSP.

“If you look at the terms of reference of this committee, it talks about finding ways and means to ensure effective MSP for farmers.

“This has been attempted several times earlier, resulting in the formation of programmes like the market intervention scheme.

“What else will this new committee suggest? It’s back to square one as far as MSP is concerned,” says Avik Saha, member of Jai Kisan Andolan, one of the prominent groups active during the farm agitation.

The committee will make suggestions to give greater autonomy to the Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices to strengthen the agricultural marketing system, in keeping with the changing requirements of the country.

It will also deal with issues related to natural farming, such as developing strategies for making krishi vigyan kendras and other research and development institutions as knowledge centres on natural farming, developing a chain of laboratories for organic certification of products produced through natural farming.

The panel will work on crop diversification to bring farmers out of the wheat and rice cycles, particularly in the main growing states of Punjab, Haryana, and western Uttar Pradesh, which were also the hotbeds of the farm agitation.

It will map existing cropping patterns of producer and consumer states, work on a system to ensure remunerative prices for the sale of new crops, and review and suggest changes in the micro-irrigation scheme.

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