Led by Shetkari Sanghatana, non-political farm organisations in the country have decided to come together and ask political parties to  support their “National Farmers Agenda” in the 2024 parliamentary elections. 

“We have a common minimum programme for supporting any political party in the 2024 elections. We are seeking economic, marketing and scientific freedom. We also want a total farm loan waiver,” said Shetkari Sanghatana President Anil Ghanwat, who has begun to visit various States urging all farm organisations to come together. 

By seeking economic, marketing and technological freedom, these organisations want the next government to reintroduce farm reforms, which were withdrawn in November 2021 following protests by a section of farmers in Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh. 

Quid pro quo support

The farmers want the latest technology to be available to them, including the freedom to plant genetically-modified crops such as cotton, maize and brinjal. 

The farmers association will approach national and regional political parties seeking their support for their national farmers agenda. “We will in turn support the parties that agree to our agenda,” Ghanwat said. “We will demand linking the MGNREGA (rural jobs) programme with all farming activities to cut our input costs. We will demand tax concessions for all agricultural inputs, including tractors, and waiver of GST,” said Chengal Reddy, Advisor, Consortium of Farmers Association of India (CFAI), one of the organisations supporting the national farmers agenda.

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Farmers will seek politicians’ assurance to fulfil the demand, he said, adding that they will also be seeking uninterrupted water and power supplies besides ₹10,000 per acre on the lines of PM Kisan Samman Nidhi Yojana. 

Loan waiver

“We have the right to seek loan waiver since farmers are affected by political decisions such as the ban on wheat exports. From around ₹3,500 a quintal at the start of the year, wheat prices are down to minimum support price level of ₹2,125 now,” Ghanwat, who was one of the three members nominated by the Supreme Court to come up with a report on the farm reforms.

The apex court has not disclosed the report, though Ghanwat held a press conference in Delhi last year to tell the media that the report recommended continuation of the reforms with some amendments. 

Apart from CFAI, the Sanghatana, which has a political wing called Swatantra Bharat Party, has got the support of the Farmers Federation, which is active in Karnataka. “We will take forward the farmers agenda and discuss it at tehsil level. We will come up with a charter of demands which will be put up in front of every village entrance,” said Reddy. 

The associations will likely ask political parties to make the person handling the agricultural portfolio the deputy prime minister, he said. 

Farmers Federation Karnataka President Kurubur Shanthkumar said farmers would put pressure on political parties to make MSP mandatory as per the recommendations of the MS Swaminathan committee. “We will seek at least 12 hours continuous power supply since our crops are being attacked by animals,” he said.

Other demands include amending the crop insurance scheme to include all crops, removing CIBIL scores for agricultural loans and undertaking allied agricultural activities in rural areas.

On the opposition to farm reforms, Ghanwat said he was willing to talk to those opposed to the reforms and convince them about their agenda. 

Reddy hoped they would be able to get all non-political farmers organisations under one umbrella. “Our only concern is politically-linked farmer organisations turning a hurdle in getting the backing for the agenda,” he said.