The government on Wednesday raised the minimum support prices for summer crops by at least half and signalled its readiness for talks over India’s three agricultural laws that have had farmers up in protest for months on end. “We are ready to hold talks with farmers, if they can come up with any suggestion,” said Narendra Singh Tomar, agriculture minister.
The big price hikes look like a bid by the Centre to placate farmers. What matters more is its effort to reach out to them again. Past attempts had ended in deadlock. Protesting farmers would accept nothing less than a complete withdrawal of the three reforms, aimed broadly at creating a private market for farm produce, fearing that state support and procurement would end and they’d be bullied by big companies. It’s pertinent to recall that the government recently increased its crop purchases in Punjab, a protest hotspot, and made swift payments directly into bank accounts, a change from the delays that farmers have suffered for years under an over-mediated system. Several efforts have been made to bring farm protesters around. However, suspicions of reforms remain rife and Indian farms stay stuck in a time warp.
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