Union Minister Arjun Munda is part of the ministerial delegation that held two rounds of discussion with the farmers' groups to resolve their concerns.
Union Agriculture Minister Arjun Munda on Tuesday said a law guaranteeing Minimum Support Price (MSP) on crops cannot be brought in a hurry without consulting all stakeholders and urged the protesting farmer groups to have a structured discussion with the government on the issue.
In an interview with PTI, Munda also cautioned the protesting farmers to be "aware and alert" about some elements which could defame their protest for political benefits. Munda is part of the ministerial delegation that held two rounds of discussion with the farmers' groups, including Samyuka Kisan Morcha (non-political), Kisan Mazdoor Morcha in Chandigarh, to resolve their concerns.
However, as the talks remained inconclusive, farmers' groups have started their 'Delhi Chalo' march on Tuesday. "In the two rounds of discussions, we agreed to many of their demands. But there was no agreement on certain issues. The talks are still on," Munda said.
He said the Centre has agreed to meet many of their demands that can be done at the administrative level. However, a policy guaranteeing an MSP requires a holistic approach taking into consideration the views of all stakeholders, including the state governments, the minister said. "Humein MSP ke baare mein yeh dekhna hai kanoon kis tarah banana hai aur ismein kya labh aur kya nuksaan hai. (On MSP, we need to see what kind of law we have to come up with and what are the benefits and drawbacks of such a law)," Munda said.
He also asserted that the Modi government does "solid work" keeping in mind the welfare of all stakeholders and will not make any announcements in a "hurry" which could later turn out to be a failed exercise.
"They want us to announce certain things. The government is not there for making announcements but to do work. Announcement is made only after a mature discussion. For a mature discussion, we need to keep in mind the interest of every stakeholder," he said, and added that agriculture is a state subject.
"Suppose we do something at a national level, the same people will tell tomorrow that you did not take states into confidence. That will also be not proper," Munda said. During the course of the discussion with protesting farmers, the minister said farmers were requested to either be part of the Sanjay Aggarwal-chaired committee that is already looking at strengthening the MSP system, or be part of a new committee.
"... We will form a committee and asked them be a part of it. For that also, they were not ready," he said, adding that the whole issue should be not be seen in isolation.
The government is ready for a holistic time-bound discussion with clear terms of reference "but they were not ready for this also," the minister said. The Sanjay Aggarwal-headed panel on MSP was established in July 2022, eight months after the government promised to set up such a panel while withdrawing the three contentious agri-laws. To date, it has held 37 meetings/workshops.
Stating that the Centre is open for dialogue anytime to resolve the concerns of farmers, Munda said, "they (farmers) will give the date now". "We have told them we are ready for talks... If they don't want to talk and creating a problem is the motto, then I would advice farmers to be careful about such people who want to create a situation for political benefit.
"I want to appeal to the farmers that there can be some elements amongst them who want to create some situation to defame farmers. They should be careful about them," he said. Munda emphasised that the government is committed to farmers' welfare and has increased the agriculture budget from Rs 27,000 crore to Rs 1.24 lakh crore annually in the last 10 years.
Besides a legal guarantee for MSP, the farmers are demanding the implementation of the Swaminathan Commission's recommendations for farmer welfare, pensions for farmers and farm labourers, and debt waiver, among others. The farmers are also seeking withdrawal of police cases and "justice" for victims of the Lakhimpur Kheri violence, reinstating the Land Acquisition Act 2013, withdrawing from the World Trade Organization, and compensating families of farmers who died during the previous agitation.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by DNA staff and is published from PTI)