The new agriculture panel raises questions

Like the monsoon, just when everyone was losing hope, revenge spilled out. When the government repealed agriculture laws last year, the government pledged to set up a commission. this is The body is finally formed To promote zero-budget farming, change cropping patterns and make MSP more efficient and transparent. It is an umbrella body of 28 members with cross-representation from central and state governments, farmers, agronomists, and economists.

The new commission was preceded by a Supreme Court-appointed panel that has spoken in its wisdom against withdrawing the controversial agricultural laws, saying that a “majority” of farm unions supported it and that repeal would be “unfair to this silent majority”. In stopping this issue for the time being, questions should be asked about the composition of the new commission and the substance of its agenda.

Of the eight farmers on the committee, five have been nominated by the government and are known to be sympathetic to its views. Three were nominated by Samyukt Kisan Morcha. But SKM’s boycott of the committee, arguing for underrepresentation, was an imposed consequence.

Contrary to the expectations of those who supported peasant agitation, many SKM members ran in the Punjab elections and lost spectacularly, as expected. Candidates identified with farmers’ protests met the same fate in union elections. SKM has lost much of its luster and relevance. Unions must now strive to earn respect, not popularity.

Many will criticize the commission for having farmers that reflect the government’s position, which in my opinion is unfair. One may disagree with some of Anil Ghanot’s views, but he is a reasonable voice on the committee. Vested interests must be excluded from the commission.

It is also strange that the former Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare, Sanjay Agarwal, has been appointed as the head of the committee. He was at the forefront of the misguided government campaign around farm laws. Agarwal should be stepping down from the position for the sake of propriety and, more importantly, to make room to build the confidence of those skeptical about the exercise. It is quite inappropriate for a member of NITI Aayog with the rank and status of a Union Minister to be required to serve as a member under Agarwal.

Again, the commission, by design, has no government representation from Punjab, a major state for purchasing grain. This can be used to stir up divisive feelings in the country.

Like many who equate income with livelihood, the commission’s mandate obscures changing crop patterns with diversification. It is, at best, a subset of diversification. The Department of Agriculture may have an understanding of the problems but now needs to understand that they cannot be resolved through discussions centered around cropping options and practices. Solutions require a systems approach. This cannot happen when the mandate is limited to crops, with no animal husbandry secretary even as a committee member, even though a third of all agricultural GDP comes from animal husbandry. It reminds us of John Maynard Keynes’ perceptive comment: “The difficulty lies not in new ideas, but in escaping from old ones.” Given this case, it is not difficult to understand why it turned out this way and why there is a threat of it turning for the worse.

Like lawyers in the American judicial system who speculate on a jury’s verdict based on its composition, can I venture into unfamiliar territory, but confidently anticipate some key outcomes? The committee will propose ending open purchases of grains in MSP (wheat and rice) while making MSP available to more farmers across India geographically. It will also end the unlimited availability and access to subsidized fertilizers for all farmers by proposing a shift towards a mechanism of direct transfer of subsidized fertilizers to farmers’ accounts. Lip service for natural implants will remain the norm. Finally, the commission, which has not been given a time frame for delivering the report and can be expected to float around to eventually make recommendations after the 2024 parliamentary elections.

For the rest, we seem to be wasting time arguing over small states. We are limited by imagination because we are largely missing out on unimaginable opportunities for approaches to diets that are now considered ideal. It will, in a few years, become fundamental thinking, causing us to reinvent the way we do everything.

Writer Chairman Bharat Krishak Samaj

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