NEW DELHI, March 21, 2013
Centre to set up panel to study demands of agitating farmers
By: Gargi Parsai
BJP president Rajnath Singh interacting with Rakesh Tikait, son of the late BKU leader Mahender Singh Tikait, on the third day of farmers’ stir in New Delhi on Wednesday. The agitation was later called off.– PHOTO: Shiv Kumar Pushpakar
The Centre on Wednesday decided to form a panel which will look into the major demands of farmers with regard to FDI in retail affecting small farmers, keeping agriculture out of Free Trade Agreements and providing ‘fair and remunerative’ price for farm produce.
The decision came after a two hour-long meeting between a group of Ministers from related departments headed by Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar and representatives of the agitating farmers under the banner of Indian Coordination Committee of Farmers’ Movements.
On the third day of the farmers’ agitation here, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh formed a committee of concerned ministries headed by Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar to meet farmers’ representatives on their demands. Besides Mr. Pawar, the committee comprised Jairam Ramesh, K.V. Thomas, Srikant Jena, Namo Narain Meena and D. Purandeswari.
After the meeting Mr. Pawar told journalists that a “smaller panel” will look into their grievance that Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in multi-brand retail will be unfavourable for small and marginal farmers and hit livelihoods.
The Minister said that the committee, which will also have farmers’ representatives, will also look into their demand for fair and remunerative price for farm produce as against the minimum support price set by the Commission for Agriculture Costs and Prices. It will also look at their demand that agriculture be taken out of the Free Trade Agreements that the government enters into with other countries so that there is no dumping of farm produce in the country.
“For their concerns on the Land Acquisition Bill, they will separately meet Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh,” Mr. Pawar said.
Asked about their demand for a Farmers Income Guarantee Act to ensure a minimum income for farmers, Mr. Pawar said, “these are the three demands we have agreed to.”
Agitation called off
“The meeting with the government is the first step in the process,” farmers leaders Rakesh Tikait and Yudhvir Singh said. They later called off the agitation. Earlier, BJP leader Rajnath Singh addressed the farmers and assured them that if his party comes to power he will seriously look into their demand for assured minimum income and crop insurance. Chairman of the Standing Committee on Agriculture Basudev Acharya while addressing farmers said that FDI in retail will not benefit either farmers or traders. He said there should be a separate budget on agriculture. Thousands of farmers from all parts of the country were on dharna since Monday to press their demands.