Centre to appoint panel for farmers’ issues

(This story originally appeared in on Jan 31, 2021)

NEW DELHI: Amid farmers’ resolve to continue their agitation, the Centre has decided to set up a high-powered committee to look into several farm issues, including minimum support price (MSP) based on comprehensive cost, flagged by social activist Anna Hazare.

The decision to set up the committee, headed by Tomar, was hurriedly taken in order to prevent Hazare from going on his scheduled fast. Hazare had, in solidarity with the farmers agitating for the repeal of farm laws, announced his fast would begin from Saturday. He, however, late on Friday called it off after the Centre rushed minister of state for agriculture Kailash Choudhary and BJP leader Devendra Fadnavis to his village Ralegan Siddhi and assured him of setting up a panel to look into his demands.

Sources in the ministry said that the committee would comprise Niti Aayog member Ramesh Chand, MoS agriculture Parshottam Rupala, Agri-trade law and policy expert Vijay Sardana, a progressive farmer from Haryana and Padma Shri awardee Kanwal Singh Chauhan and farmer representatives. Hazare had, earlier, written to the ministry, listing pending demands including autonomy to the Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices (CACP) and MSP based on comprehensive cost (C2) as recommended by M S Swaminathan committee as reasons for his joining the farmers’ protests through the fast.

The committee, headed by agriculture minister Narendra Singh Tomar, will finalise its recommendations in six months even as the PM Modi during the all-party meeting on Saturday referred to the agriculture ministry’s proposals of putting the implementation of farm laws on hold for 18 months and setting up a joint committee to make progress through discussion on all demands of farmers during the period.

The unions, however, rejected the proposals, saying they would not end the protests till the farm laws are repealed. Choudhary said though the Centre had already implemented various suggestions of Hazare which the latter had written about earlier, the high-powered committee would look into the pending issues in consultations with farmer representatives.

“Names of farmer representatives for the panel will be finalised in consultation with Hazare,” said an official, adding one joint secretary each from the agriculture, commerce and food & consumer affairs ministries would also be in the panel.

He said this committee would work separately from the Supreme Court-appointed panel which is expected to submit its report to the apex court within two months after taking views of various stakeholders including individual farmers and state government.

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