Let down by farm laws’ repeal, says Shetkari Sanghatana in Maharashtra

Founded by farmer leader Sharad Joshi, the Sanghatana has historically been different from other farm organisations due to its support for the open market and regulation-free trade in agricultural commodities

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s decision to repeal the three farm laws, according to the Shetkari Sanghatana, is “unfortunate and a step backwards”. Speaking to The Indian Express, Anil Ghanwat, leader of the organisation, said the decision was taken based on political compulsions and not logic.

Since the legislations were passed, Ghanwat and his organisation has been at the forefront of the forces supporting the three laws. Founded by farmer leader Sharad Joshi, the Sanghatana has historically been different from other farm organisations due to their support for the open market and regulation-free trade in agricultural commodities. Thus, when the majority of the organisations had come on the streets to oppose the laws, the Sanghatana had hit the streets in support of the law.

Ghanwat termed the announcement to repeal the farm laws extremely unfortunate. “It seems the central government had to bow down to the unreasonable demands of the protesting farmers. This rollback takes farmers ages back in their effort to gain economic freedom,” he said. In the past, Ghanwat and his organisation had said the protesting farmers were being misled by leaders with interests of their own. The decision, he said, has now been taken fearing a political backlash in the upcoming polls in Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and other states. “However, it is too late for BJP to make amends and people will not forgive them anyway,” he said.

Farmers have been agitating on the borders of Delhi since November 26 last year, seeking the repeal of the Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020; Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020; and Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020. Ghanwat and some other organisations represent the other spectrum who have supported the law since day one.

Ghanwat was one of the three people who were named by the Supreme Court to talk to the stakeholders and come up with workable solutions on the law. The apex court, early this year, had stayed the laws and asked the committee – whose other members include agriculture economist Ashok Gulati and director of South Asia International Food Research Institute, Pramod Kumar Joshi – to present amicable solutions. The report was submitted to the Supreme Court in a sealed envelope well within the stipulated time, but is yet to be made public.

“Our report had talked to many stakeholders and addressed shortcomings in the law. However, that was not public. We are going to meet in Delhi and decide on the report – on whether to make it public,” he said.

Like Ghanwat’s organisation, MahaFPC, a consortium of Farmers Producers Companies in Maharashtra, too had welcomed the farm laws. These village-level companies had used the freedom to conduct business without the purview of the mandis to trade in commodities like soyabean, maize, etc. Last year, the company had carried out trade of over Rs 10 crore by directly procuring from farmers.

Yogesh Thorat, managing director of MahaFPC, said the farm laws’ repeal was a failure of all stakeholders. “In a democratic political economy, anything can happen. The repeal of the agriculture marketing reforms is not only the failure of the Union Government, but also of all value-chain stakeholders. This will result in a setback to various innovations and interventions taken by farmers, FPCs, startups, corporate etc,” he said.

“Now, the Centre should provide an alternative to the acts through a conducive legal framework for doing business to those who had taken efforts for the last two years in the direction of reforms. The Centre needs to support the agribusiness ecosystem, which is in its infancy, and safeguard their investment, infrastructure and business through various centrally sponsored schemes through better Centre-state relations in the interest of farmers,” he said.

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