The vexed issue of fixing the minimum support price (MSP) on the Swaminathan formula and providing it with a legal shield is unlikely to get resolved soon as a group of unions under the Samyukt Kisan Morcha (SKM) rejected the government’s proposal on Monday and vowed to continue the agitation until the demands are met.

In a bid to find a solution to the current farmers’ agitation over the demand for legal enforcement of MSP, the Centre has proposed that it will buy cotton, maize, tur, urad and masur for five years directly from farmers at MSP without any quantitative limit. It refrained from committing to frame a law that the farmers wanted so that private traders will also be mandated to buy at least at the benchmark rates.

The current agitation to march to Delhi was called by the SKM (non-political) and the Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Committee of Punjab, who were part of the united SKM in the 2020-21 agitation against three farm laws. The government had to repeal the three laws amid a year-long protest by various farmer groups, mainly from Punjab, Haryana and western Uttar Pradesh.

Seeking debt waiver

The current round of protest is mainly led by the SKM (non-political) which seemed more open to the government’s proposal. However, a large number of Left-backed unions, who have also been supporting the SKM (non-political) in this round, are totally opposed to the government’s new formula. These divergent opinions came to the fore on Monday.

The SKM (non-political) leader Abhimanyu Kohar said the Union Ministers Piyush Goyal, Arjun Munda and Nityanand Rai, who have been negotiating with them, have sought more time to respond to their two other demands for debt waiver and implementation of land acquisition formula.

“We have given them two more days to respond on these two demands and if there is nothing heard by February 21, we will resume the peaceful march to Delhi from the Punjab-Haryana borders,” Kohar said. He urged farmers to connect the two points of the Punjab-Haryana borders by February 21.

Positive gesture

Though Piyush Goyal said the farmer leaders have informed them that they would discuss the proposal in their forums over the next two days and take a decision, sources said that there was a general consensus among this group of farmers under SKM (non-political) to accept the proposal as a positive gesture to continue the negotiations.

Simultaneously, the Left-leaning groups within the SKM hardened their stand against the proposals, announcing a meeting in next two days to decide the next course of action. This has put considerable pressure on SKM (non-political) to not to accept the Centre’s offer even though the leaders of this group are more amenable to the Centre’s overtures, the sources said.

Briefing the media on Monday, SKM leader Darshan Pal Singh said the government was trying to divide the farmers unions as the current proposal, linking with crop diversification, has diluted the two core demands of legally guaranteed MSPs and Swaminathan formula.

“It will be a loss for farmers if they (leaders of other SKM group) do not understand the government’s motive (to divide),” he said.