Sharad Pawar, in a series of tweets, the 80-year-old veteran politician, whose party commands a significant share of the agrarian vote in Maharashtra, said the new central laws will adversely affect the Minimum Support Price (MSP) and weaken the mandi system. Pawar was the Union Agriculture Minister for 10 years in Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s government, now turned a critique of the new farm laws that have driven extensive protests and chaos over the last two months. Pawar’s assessment comes amid escalating tensions between the government and farmers protesting the laws that peaked on Republic Day after violent clashes with the police as sections of their massive tractor parade strayed off agreed routes.
Rama Shere a farmer of Maharashtra said, “I agree with Pawar Saheb, as a farmer why should I be forced to sell only in Mandis at unacceptable prices, corruption and wastage. It is not a perfect solution… in fact not a long-term solution at all. A free market with some a safeguarding and support model for low-income farmers is what we need and new laws are a step in the right direction. When contract farming comes into effect, big players will dictate what crops to grow, when to grow, what price to be fixed. Since they contract bulk of lands, volume wholesale can be done at lower prices which create cartel and monopoly. Small farmers may spend more money to get crops and they cannot sell at a lower price, like cartel players, they will lose out on this. Second Farmers were using MSP as a backup when they could not sell at a higher price. Now farmers are asking govt to make mandatory sale price should be above MSP, this govt is not accepting.”
In the meantime, Anna Hazare cancelled his planned fast against the three central agricultural laws. He announced his decision in the presence of senior BJP leader and former Maharashtra chief minister, Devendra Fadnavis he told reporters, “I have been doing Andolan (agitation) on various issues for a long time. It is not a crime to protest peacefully… I have been raising the farmers’ issue for three years… they die by suicide because they don’t get the right prices for their crops… the government have decided to increase the MSP (Minimum Support Price) by 50 per cent – I have got the letter.”
“Since the centre decided to work on these 15 issues (his demands for farmers), I have cancelled tomorrow’s fast,” he added.
On the other hand, Pawar’s criticism was also seen as a counter to the BJP which has been attacking the opposition Congress and its allies like the NCP for their support to the farmers’ movement, claiming that similar reforms had been planned for years before Prime Minister Narendra Modi took office. Pawar said he virtually participated in the all-party meeting with PM Modi in which issues related to the proposed agenda for the budget session, farmers’ agitation, women’s bill and other important issues were discussed. Supporting the farmers’ stand that the new laws will result in loss of income, Pawar said the new laws will adversely impact the MSP procurement infrastructure thereby weakening the mandi system. The MSP mechanism has to be ensured and strengthened further, he added. During my tenure, the draft APMC Rules – 2007 were framed for the setting up of special markets thereby providing alternate platforms for farmers to market their commodities and utmost care was also taken to strengthen the existing Mandi system,” he tweeted.
“According to the Act, the Govt will intervene for price control only if rates of horticultural produce are increased by 100 per cent and that of non-perishable items increase by 50 per cent… Stockpiling limits have been removed on food grain, pulses, onion, potato, oilseeds etc. It may lead to apprehensions that Corporates may purchase commodities at lower rates and stockpile and sell at higher prices to consumers,” he wrote.