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SC-Appointed Panel Found 86% Farmer Groups Supported 3 Repealed Laws

The Supreme Court's high-powered panel of experts tasked with studying the three repealed farm laws reported that the vast majority of agricultural organisations with which it dealt were in favour of them.

Chintu Das
Farmers Group
Farmers Group

The Supreme Court's high-powered panel of experts tasked with studying the three repealed farm laws reported that the vast majority of agricultural organisations with which it dealt were in favour of them.

Around 86 percent of farm organisations surveyed backed the laws, representing nearly 33 million farmers.

While pushing for the retention of the Acts, the panel recommended that states be given latitude in executing and developing the laws, with prior consent from the Centre.

It has stated that repealing or suspending the Acts for an extended period of time would be "unfair" to the silent majority who supported the laws.

Agricultural economist Ashok Gulati, Shetkari Sanghatana (Maharashtra) President Anil Ghanwat, former South-Asia Director of the International Food Policy Research Institute Pramod Kumar Joshi, and Bhupinder Singh Mann, president of a section of the Bhartiya Kisan Union, were the first four members. Mann later declined to participate in the panel.

The Supreme Court appointed the panel in January 2021, delaying the implementation of the three laws.

Anil Ghanwat, a farmer leader from Pune, said at a news conference on Monday that he had written to the Supreme Court three times demanding the release of the committee's findings, but that in the lack of a response, he was doing it.

In its findings, the panel stated that it engaged with 73 organisations representing over 38.3 million farmers. Around 86 percent of them said they totally supported the Acts, whereas four groups, totaling over 5.1 million people, said they didn't.

Seven other organisations, totaling 360,000 farmers, backed the Acts with minor changes.

That apart, the panel was open to questions and remarks. It got 19,027 suggestions and representations. According to the panel, two-thirds of those surveyed supported the Acts.

The panel stated that farmer groups protesting near the Delhi boundary did not take part in any of the exchanges, but their objections and worries, as reported in the media, were taken into account while making its recommendations.

The panel concluded the farmer unions' demand to legalise the minimum support price (MSP) system was illogical and hence impossible.

"Anything that is manufactured must be traded at a profit. MSP is an indicative floor price designed to safeguard farmers from unjustified price drops, particularly during harvest. The government "does not have the financial resources to purchase whatever is produced of all 23 commodities now covered by MSP," according to the study.

Given the massive wheat and rice surpluses that have occurred, the MSP and procurement support policy, as conceived for cereals during the Green Revolution, needs to be reconsidered.

The panel offered a few suggestions for how to continue, all of which were at least ten years in the future.

"One of the possibilities that the committee discussed is allocating existing central government expenditures on wheat and rice procurement, storage, and PDS across states based on an objective formula that gives fair weightage to output, procurement, and poverty." The states should be allowed to develop their own methods to help farmers and safeguard impoverished consumers in their individual states, according to the report.

The committee has proposed that states have the option of acquiring crops at a specified MSP in accordance with their respective agricultural policy priorities.

Another alternative offered by the panel is to provide recipients of the public distribution system the option of receiving cash transfers equivalent to MSP + 25% for each kilogramme of grain entitlement or receiving it in kind (wheat or rice).

The panel recommended that a road map be developed for gradually diversifying from paddy to more sustainable high-value crops, particularly in the Punjab-Haryana area.

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