Deregulate agri-markets: Ghanwat

Deregulate agri-markets: Ghanwat

Anil Ghanwat

Anil Ghanwat, member, Supreme Court-appointed committee on farm laws and the leader of Shetkari Sangathan, tells Sagar Kulkarni of DH, that the repeal of the three farm laws was one of the most regressive steps taken by the Modi government, which would do great dis-service to farmers.

How do you see the decision to repeal the three farm laws?

This is very unfortunate. This was for the first time when someone had dared to de-regulate agriculture, unshackle it, but unfortunately, the beneficiaries themselves rejected the move and the PM had to repeal the laws.

Why were these laws necessary?

These laws were necessary because we did not have any agriculture policy all these years. The laws related to agriculture are in Schedule 9, which does not allow the farmers to even approach courts if they feel that they have been deprived of any rights. The result is that, if there is a shortage of any commodity, the prices rise. This is a time when the farmer is in a position to earn some profit. But, whenever there is such a situation, the government intervenes in the form of imposition of export bans, importing commodities, imposing stock limits. These restrictions cool down the prices. We are against such interventions, which have been happening since Independence. This was the first time that a government has shown the political will to usher in reforms. But, unfortunately, farmers will now be debt ridden again, they will be forced to commit suicide.

Now farmers are demanding legal cover for MSP. Is it feasible?

That is a bogus idea. MSP for all crops is unimplementable. Now, mainly wheat and rice are procured for the PDS. The demand for PDS, including buffer stock, is around 41 lakh metric tonnes. But, this year we have procured over 100 lakh metric tonnes of food grains. There are no means to dispose of it, these stocks cannot be exported because globally the prices are cheaper. We have no infrastructure to store such huge quantities of food grains. If this is the condition for just wheat and rice, what will happen if the government has to procure 23 crops at MSP? There should be MSP, but it should be limited to procurement for buffer stocks.

What is the change that is needed?

The basic change is that the government should step out of the agriculture market. Instead, there should be regulation to ensure that the agriculture markets are not distorted. We had a government that had the political will to do this, but unfortunately it had to step back. This was very insulting to the SCourt-appointed committee that had taken efforts to reach out to various stakeholders and made suggestions in its report. Almost all the people we talked to had suggested de-regulation of markets.

How do you balance the interests of farmers and consumers?

Genetically modified seeds are the answer. If these seeds are allowed, we will be able to sell farm produce at half the rate that we are selling today and still be profitable. Farmers can still earn profits by selling at rates lower than the current MSP. I would say de-regulation of agriculture markets and access to better technology and seeds is the answer.

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