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Volume IconIs India seeing a revival of farmers' agitation?

Jantar Mantar was again teeming with thousands of farmers. They reached Delhi from several states to protest against unkept promises of govt. A law on MSP was one of them. Our next report tells more

Farmers gather to protest at Jantar Mantar, in New Delhi on Monday. PTI

Farmers gather to protest at Jantar Mantar, in New Delhi on Monday. PTI

Over 5,000 farmers reached New Delhi’s Jantar Mantar on Monday, more than eight months after they ended their year-long stir after withdrawal of three farm laws. Wielding banners and flags and shouting slogans, the protestors broke through barricades to reach the ‘mahapanchayat’ site.
 
Other than north India, farmers from states such as Karnataka, Maharashtra, Odisha and Kerala arrived in Delhi to protest against what they said unfulfilled promises of the government.

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Farmers are demanding a legal guarantee for Minimum Support Price based on the recommendations of the Swaminathan committee. The panel had suggested a minimum support price that is at least 50% more than the actual cost of farming, including the price of seeds, fertilisers, hired labour, family workers’ own compensation, and land rent

Monday’s protests were called by a breakaway faction of the Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM), an umbrella body of farmer unions which had spearheaded the year-long agitation in Delhi. The protestors called themselves SKM-apolitical.

They also sought a waiver of farm loans and demanded the withdrawal of the Electricity (Amendment) Bill, 2022, which the farmers fear will put an end to subsidies. After being introduced in the Lok Sabha on August 8th, the bill has been sent to a parliamentary standing committee for review. 

Union Power Minister RK Singh has assured that the provisions of the bill do not affect farmers and that states can give any amount of subsidy, even free power, to any category of consumers. 

Apart from this, the protesting farmers demanded a hike in sugarcane MSP, scrapping of the Agneepath scheme, release of jailed farmers and a speedy trial in the Lakhimpur-Kheri case, in which four farmers were allegedly run over allegedly by Union Minister Ajay Mishra's son in October last year.

Devinder Sharma, Agriculture Expert, main demand is of legalising MSP for govt and private markets. Farmers feel this is required for income security. Estimates about impact on procurement cost are overstated.

Even as farmers protested, the high-powered panel constituted by the government on MSP, following the repeal of the farm laws, formed four sub-groups to take up various issues in its first meeting on Monday. Three of the committee’s 26 membership slots were kept aside for Samyukta Kisan Morcha, which rejected this panel and decided not to nominate its representatives.

Now the question remains, will the latest protests snowball into something bigger along the lines of the opposition seen in the case of the farm laws 

Sharma say, issue could snowball if govt dithers on matter of MSP. Farmer leaders are trying to build support. Making MSP a legal right is the reform agri is looking for. 

 The larger message here is that the trust deficit between the government and a significant section of the farmers that blew up during the farm laws protest is well and alive. Left unaddressed, not only will it have political implications but also ensure the absence of a buy-in from a large number of Indians for any major reforms that the government may attempt. 

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First Published: Aug 24 2022 | 7:27 AM IST

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