The Government should build political consensus on plans for reform in farm sector
Farmers have resolved to review the progress of their agreement with the Government in mid-January. Their key remaining demand is a legal guarantee of minimum support prices for all crops. While the Government has promised that the existing minimum support price regime will not be diluted, the questions on extending its coverage and backing it up legally have been left to a committee constituted by the Prime Minister. The committee includes representatives of farmers too. The Indian agriculture sector requires a balance between national development priorities and market linkages, and ensure long-term economic sustainability for those employed by it. Wider coverage of minimum support prices could encourage farmers in Punjab and Haryana to switch from irrigation intensive, and expensive rice to a diverse crop pattern without compromising on the food staple. Water abundant areas could adopt appropriate crops. To achieve an ecologically appropriate geographical spread of crops, the existing regional disparity in the sector needs to be addressed, by giving more state attention to regions and crops that are now in a shadow. Enhancing agriculture incomes is a shared objective of all political parties, and it is most unfortunate that they are unable to put their heads together to achieve this. The calm achieved by rightly repealing the three laws should be wisely used by the Centre to build a political consensus on the country’s agriculture sector.
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