Ram Singh Patel’s day starts at 6 in the morning, when he walks into his farmland tucked next to a railway line. For hours he toils on the farm, where he grows chili peppers, onions, garlic, tomatoes and papayas. Sometimes his wife, two sons and two daughters join him to lend a helping hand or have lunch with him. (Image: AP)
Niti Aayog Member Ramesh Chand on Sunday said the target of doubling farmers’ income by 2022 will not be fulfilled if the three new farm laws are not implemented immediately, adding that the protesting farm unions should consider the government’s offer of discussing the legislations clause by clause.
In an interview to PTI, Chand further said the blanket ban on genetically modified crops is not the right approach.
The government and unions representing farmers, who have been camping at Delhi’s border for four months in protest against the three laws that they say will end state procurement of crops at MSP, have held 11 rounds of talks, the last being on January 22. Talks broke down after widespread violence during a tractor rally by protesting farmers on January 26.
“I think the way forward can come only from give and take, so if we feel we will stick to whatever we are demanding, then you will find that there will not be any desirable way forward.
“The government has given a bold option to the farmer leaders, the government is willing to put these farm laws on hold for one-and-a-half years,” the Niti Aayog member (agriculture) said.
Chand pointed out that the government is willing to discuss the three farm laws clause by clause, and farmer leaders should consider this offer.
“There was enough time to think coolly, to think in a balanced manner. Initial reaction could be emotional, initial reaction could be under some pressure, but now I think everybody has thought coolly.
“So farmer leaders must come up with their reaction, they must seek change wherever they think this is going against their interest,” he argued.
According to Chand, protesting farmers must speak up and open their minds, otherwise their silence will go against them.
“In the society, image is coming that it is becoming political… so they (farmers) must study in detail… they must say ‘look this clause is against us’,” he added.
Replying to a question, Chand said any kind of reform is hard in a democracy and in India, it is more difficult because the country has reached a point in politics where the Opposition, be it any party, opposes whatever the ruling party is doing.
“So that means whatever you do, good or bad, the die is cast, so this casting of the die must change,” he opined.
Replying to another question on whether the government is still confident of doubling farm income by 2022, Chand noted that for achieving the target, these three farm laws are very important.
“I will say that if these three farm laws are not adopted immediately, then I don’t see that goal (of doubling farmers’ income by 2022) getting fulfilled,” he said, adding the Supreme Court has already put the farm laws under suspension and even earlier reforms which were going on have been halted.
The Narendra Modi-led NDA government has set a target of doubling farmers’ income by 2022.
On January 11, the Supreme Court stayed the implementation of the three farm laws till further order and appointed a four-member panel to resolve the impasse.
On genetically modified (GM) crops, Chand said the government should adopt a case by case approach.
“We should not have a general view that we support genetically modified crops everywhere or oppose genetically modified crops everywhere.
“I feel that blanket ban, that come what may we are not going to accept it at all, is not the right approach,” he said.
The comments came days after Union Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar, in a written reply in the Rajya Sabha, had said: “It has been decided that proposals of field trials of GM crops, including Bt Brinjal, will not be taken for consideration in the GEAC without recommendation of the concerned state/UT government.”
Chand said there should be a case by case approach and “we should see to it where we have domestic products which are there…we don’t have to depend on private companies on this. So if we address these two issues, then I think we can address all the criticism, all the adverse side of GM kind of crops.”
As per the regulatory process, the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) reviews the data submitted along with the application to conduct field trials and is the only body by law to review the safety of the submitted data and grant final approval for field trials.
To a question on farm sector growth, Chand said his estimate for the current fiscal ending March was 3.5 per cent.
“So I think it is going to be around that …there is a momentum in agriculture which will ensure that we move on this growth trajectory of something 3 and 3.5 per cent in 2021-22 fiscal,” he observed.
Hundreds of farmers, mainly from Punjab, Haryana and western Uttar Pradesh, are camping near Delhi’s borders since November last year demanding that the Centre repeal the three contentious farm laws.
Enacted in September 2020, the three farm laws have been projected by the Centre as major reforms in the agriculture sector that will remove the middlemen and allow farmers to sell their produce anywhere in the country.
The protesting farmers, on the other hand, have expressed apprehensions that the new laws would pave the way for eliminating the safety cushion of the minimum support price and do away with themandi(wholesale market) system, leaving them at the mercy of big corporates.