A day after the Samyukt Kisan Morcha (SKM) announced its decision, the joint committee of the SKM (non-political) and the Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Committee of Punjab, who are leading the current farmer stir, too have rejected the Centre’s proposal of a five-year guaranteed procurement of five crops at MSPs and decided to continue their march to Delhi.

However, the Centre has already rolled out the scheme for procurement of tur and maize crops and is likely to extend it to urad, masur and cotton, soon.

The current agitation to march to Delhi was called by the SKM (non-political) and the Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Committee of Punjab, who were earlier part of SKM in the November 2020-November 2021 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.

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, which farmers want so that private traders will also be mandated to buy at least at the benchmark rates.

Releasing a video message after the deliberations among famer leaders, SKM (non-political) leader Abhimanyu Kohar said: “we have unanimously decided to reject the government proposals after elaborately analysing each aspect.”

He said the government claims that the expenses will be between ₹1.25 lakh crore and ₹1.5 lakh crore if all pulses are procured by it. But all agriculture economists say that the total expenses on the government account will be between ₹1.5 lakh crore and ₹1.75 lakh crore if legal guarantee of MSP is implemented.

Further, Kohar wondered why the government was not saying that it would spend the ₹1.75 lakh crore foreign exchange paid to import edible oil annually to domestic farmers. “If the government is really sincere on its commitment for Atmanirbhar, all those agriculture products should not be imported, but the same amount money be spent in India itself.”

Secondly, he said that in the Centre’s proposal there is a condition that only those farmers will get the MSP benefit if they shift from some other crops to any of the five crops in which the scheme will be implemented. “This means a cotton farmer will not be assured of purchase of his cotton at MSP and only if a farmer of other crops shifts to cotton, only then will he get the benefit,” he said.

“We want a law to guarantee purchase of 23 crops at MSP fixed by the government,” he said and added that from 11 am on Wednesday, farmers will resume their march from the Punjab-Haryana border points to Delhi. He also appealed to farmers to join the two border points by February 21.

The Left-leaning SKM, on Monday hardened its stand and rejected the proposals, saying the demands are common and for the benefit of all farmers, even if the government has been holding talks with one group of farmer unions and shared the proposals with them.

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

Farmers have been demanding implementation of the Swaminathan Commission’s recommendation for fixing minimum support prices (MSPs) at 50 per cent over and above C2 (comprehensive) costs of production (including imputed costs of own land), and a law to guarantee purchase of crops at MSP. Other demands include unconditional pension for farmers above 60 years of age, and farmers should be made completely debt-free.