“Farm reforms important for India, not sure opposition to reforms is genuine”: Godrej Agrovet chairman

Amidst all the hue and cry created by protesting farmers from Punjab over the long overdue farm reforms that were finally introduced by the central government earlier this year, voices of reason have got lost in the media’s rush to cover the protestors.

In a statement to Bloomberg Quint financial news channel, the Chairman of agri-business company Godrej Agrovet, Nadir Godrej, said that the just-introduced agriculture reforms are important for Bharat.

He also added that he ‘wasn’t sure the opposition to the agriculture reforms are genuine’.

Godrej’s views echo those of experts like agricultural economist Ashok Gulati who has argued that attempts to rollback the farm reforms ‘harken to socialist era’, and are an ‘attempt to undo agriculture’s 1991 moment’.

The reforms which were passed in September this year were welcomed by many farm leaders, with resistance only from Punjab and some parts of Haryana where government procurement at MSP and the APMC mandi system has created some perverse incentives.

This is what an Economic Times editorial had to say about the reforms on 18 Sept 2020 –

“The government has shown remarkable conviction in pushing ahead with three Bills designed to change the operating framework of agriculture in India, even in the face of resignation from the council of ministers of the representative of an old-time ally, the Akali Dal.

This is commendable. The core of the reform sought to be delivered by the Bill is laudable and necessary.

One Bill frees farmers from the grip of the Agricultural Produce Marketing Committees (APMC) and gives them marketing freedom. Farmers can have that freedom only if their customers — traders, agro-processing companies — have similar freedom to buy and stock farm produce.

The Bill amending the Essential Commodities Act frees traders from arbitrary stocking limits and the threat of penalties for hoarding. The third Bill seeks to legitimise and regulate contract farming.

All three are interrelated, and, together with the financing plans arranged for post-harvest food-handling infrastructure, promise to give farming in India an incentive to move away from subsistence and towards market orientation.”

The editorial further addresses the issue of MSP, which agitators have made into their core issue, even making bizarre demands that government should commit to procure all crops in the country for a pre-defined MSP, a move that would bankrupt government finances several time over:

“While the government has sought to assuage farmer anxiety by asserting that minimum support prices (MSPs) are not going to disappear, the fact remains that the logic of the changes proposed, and the compulsions of grain production, storage and international trade, point to phasing out of open-ended procurement at MSP.

The current ridiculous situation of about one-third of the country’s grain output ending up in government stocks, only there to rot or be pilfered, is unsustainable. Northwest India has to shed over-reliance on grain and diversify production to fruit, flowers, vegetables and other produce, and integrate more stages of value addition into the farmer’s ambit.”

However, as the protestors have successfully blockaded Delhi, they are now getting support from Lutyens and even higher judiciary has ridiculously suggested today that the implementation of the laws should be put on hold till ‘negotiations’ are completed with protesting farmers.

It is time to remind the elites and talking heads in Delhi and other parts of the country, that the people of the country elect representatives to Parliament, so laws passed therein reign supreme. It is time to end the protests or pack the protestors off to designated protest sites in the capital.


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