“Our goal is to liberalize the agricultural sector”: Gunwant Patil of Shetkari Sanghatna

Gunwant Patil, member of the special task force formed by the central government to study Minimum Support Price (MSP)Told The Indian Express that it aims to liberalize the agricultural sector. A veteran member of Shetkari Sanghtana, the farmers’ union formed by the late Sharad Joshi, Patil said the platform would allow him to bring about changes in the way MSP is calculated and would also help farmers access the benefits of an open market.

Earlier this week, the central government announced the formation of a special committee to study MSP and natural farming. The committee is made up of representatives of farmers’ organizations, cooperatives, agricultural experts and others.

Besides Patil, Sayyed Pasha Patel from Maharashtra was also included as a representative of the farmers. Three members of Samyukta Kisan Mocha, the organization that spearheaded farmers’ opposition to the three now-repealed farm laws, had been asked to nominate three members. However, they rejected the offer.

Patil said after Joshi, he coaches with Sanghtana and aims to make changes to the way MSP is calculated. “If the farmer gets an MSP above his cost of production, there will be no more problems in the agricultural sector.
However, how the cost of production is calculated is important. We in Sanghtana have a synthetic way of calculating the same and I will submit it to the committee for discussion,” he said, adding that a correct correlation between cost of production and MSP is important and, therefore, must be taken back to the central committee.

Another of Patil’s goals is to help farmers access the benefits of an open market. Agriculture, he said, is now shackled by multiple laws and farmers are almost bound. The Agricultural Commodities Marketing Committee (APMC) monopoly and various laws that restrict trade in agricultural products have hurt the sector, Patil said. “Wheat prices have skyrocketed due to the Ukrainian crisis. If our farmers had been allowed to export directly, they would have benefited. I will use this platform to educate farmers on the benefits of an open market,” he said.

The Center’s eventual decision to repeal the three contentious Farm Bills was met with strong protests from the Sanghtana. Like other members of the organization, Patil said the move was detrimental to the agricultural sector. “We need to make farmers understand that MSP is not everything. We need to make them aware of the benefits of an open market,” he said.

Sayyed Pasha Patel, former head of Maharashtra’s Agricultural Costs and Prices Committee and a former connoisseur of state agricultural policy, said the task force would bring transparency in the way MSP is calculated. He said access to markets and a steady import-export policy were necessary to ensure the increase in farmers’ incomes. As a member of the committee, Patel said he plans to travel the country far and wide to clear up misunderstandings and misconceptions about the government’s intentions.

“The MSP may differ from state to state. We have to consider the local factors that would help us arrive at the right image. Our main goal is to bring transparency to how this is done,” he said.

He added that close coordination with different ministries is needed to ensure that farmers do not lose adequate income. “I am on the Board of Trade, a special committee formed by the Union Ministry of Commerce. My presence on both committees will ensure that farmers are not harmed by any decision,” he said.

While withdrawing the Farm Bills, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had said the decision was made because the government had failed to properly communicate its intentions to the people.

“We decided to talk directly to people. We will do a thorough tour of the country ensuring that any doubts surrounding the government’s intent are properly addressed,” Patel said.