Agriculture Minister Meets Farmer Representatives From 17 States, Moots Setting Up A Panel To Hear All Views

by M R Subramani - Dec 15, 2020 07:31 AM
Agriculture Minister Meets Farmer Representatives From 17 States, Moots Setting Up A Panel To Hear All ViewsFarmers hand over a memorandum to Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar.
Snapshot
  • The meeting with representatives of farmer association from 17 States is in addition to many other farmer bodies, mainly from Haryana, calling on the Union Agriculture Minister to express their support for the agricultural reforms undertaken by the Modi government.

A delegation of 17 farmer associations from across the country met Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar to express support for the agricultural reforms brought in by the Narendra Modi government.

However, a couple of those who were present at the meeting have called for wider consultations with the State and some tweak in the laws.

According to Vettavalam Manikandan, State President, Tamil Nadu Vivasaigal Sangham (Farmers’ Association), the Centre has proposed setting up a panel headed by a joint secretary to hear the views State-wise across the country.

The development comes on the heels of protests staged in the national capital region of Delhi by a section of farmers, particularly from Punjab, against the reforms. The protests entered the twentieth day today (15 December).

In the monsoon session of Parliament that ended in September, the Union government had passed three Bills — Farmers' Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act.

The Trade and Commerce Act enables farmers to sell their produce to anyone in the country at any place. The Price Assurance Act helps farmers enter into contract farming in the language the grower understands, while the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act helps them sell their produce without worrying about storage limits fixed earlier for various commodities.

Manikandan said farmer representatives from three States could make it to the meeting, while 11 of them took part in the meeting, in which Tomar heard them patiently.

The meeting in which farmers and officials were present.
The meeting in which farmers and officials were present.

The meeting with representatives of farmer association from 17 States is in addition to many other farmers bodies, mainly from Haryana, calling on the Union Agriculture Minister to express their support for the agricultural reforms undertaken by the Modi government.

Guni Prakash Thakur, Bharatiya Kisan Union, Haryana State President, told Swarajya that they told Tomar that the Union government should not repeal the agricultural reforms.

“A conference will be held in Delhi on 26 December in which 24 regional farmer organisations will take part and decide on how to take this forward so that farmers' income could double in the next couple of years,” he said.

Doordarshan News reported that the delegation included farmer organisations from Maharashtra, Telangana, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.

The representatives asked the Union government to open up the agricultural sector to market competition and encourage the use of technology by lowering Customs duty for importing farm equipment.

They also sought a reduction in the Goods and Services Tax (GST) on pesticides, apart from keeping GST on all farm-related products at the lowest slab.

On his part, Tomar said the ball was in the farmers’ court, with the Centre willing to discuss their issues “clause by clause” with regard to all the three Acts.

Manikandan told Swarajya that he told the Agriculture Minister that disputes with regard to prices and contract farming should not be referred to civil courts.

“I told him of a story how a land dispute in our village reduced a farmer to penury, while his lawyer made a killing. Civil disputes will not end quickly. These are issues of revenue. Such issues should be resolved by the Revenue Divisional Officer or the district collector,” he said.

The Tamil Nadu Farmers Association President also said that the Union or State governments should intervene to end such disputes quickly. He also said that the government can make a one-line reference on Minimum Support Price (MSP) in the Farm Trade and Commerce Act.

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court is set to hear tomorrow (16 December) a plea to remove the protesting farmers in the NCR region. The petition, filed by a law student, Rishabh Sharma, will be heard by a bench comprising Chief Justice of India S A Bobde, and Justices A S Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian.

Sharma has argued that commuters are facing hardships due to the road blockades and the gatherings might lead to an increase in the number of Covid-19 cases.

He has also contended that it was a contempt of court on the heels of the apex court ruling in the Shaheen Bagh protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019.

M.R. Subramani is Executive Editor, Swarajya. He tweets @mrsubramani

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