Farm minister Narendra Singh Tomar on Wednesday said he hoped a solution to the ongoing farmers’ agitation would only come from dialogue and more reforms were needed in the agriculture sector.
Though Tomar did not elaborate, his stand signals the Modi government’s intent for a full spectrum of reforms in the country’s farm sector, despite a pushback from farmers to three farm-reform laws.
“In the last six years, efforts have been made to initiate reforms in the farm sector. There are still areas where reforms are due and can benefit our farmer brothers, who are the backbone of our country,” Tomar told members of the Confederation of NGOs of Rural India (CNRI), an outfit that has pledged support to the three recent laws farmers say will hurt their livelihoods.
“There are two situations. A majority of the country has supported the three laws. The media have also seen this and (there are) some who are opposing the laws. We have received 300,000 signatures of farmers who have welcomed the laws,” he said.
The government’s intention to undertake more reforms in future comes against a massive agitation of farmers against its move to ease restrictions in farm trade.
Separately, Tomar told reporters that the government was open to discussing and solving “each and every problems” of protesting farmers.
“I’m hopeful that farmers’ unions will discuss our proposals. Whatever they want to add and subtract from the government’s proposal, they should tell us. We’re ready for a discussion at the time and date of their convenience. I’m hopeful for a solution,” the minister said.
The minister’s statements came on a day farm unions said they were not inclined to hold further talks with the government until the government draws up a fresh agenda, deepening a stalemate.
“Through various schemes, we will fill all gaps in agriculture sector, which will benefit farmers and ensure that they get the right price. We have made reforms like the scheme to have 10,000 farmer producer organisations at a cost of Rs 6500 crore and offered an agri infrastructure fund of Rs 1 lakh crore so that farmers get the right price,” the minister said.
Tens of thousands of farmers are protesting the passage of new legislation to open up the agricultural sector to private buyers and enable farmers to sell directly to big corporations in deregulated markets instead of just government marketplace. Farmers say they will lose business to big buyers and face exploitation.
Analysts say more reforms may lead to more resistance. “Reforms in mass-employment sectors that involve livelihoods are more difficult to pull off than those in industrial or financial sectors,” said KK Kailash of the University of Hyderabad.