S Sivakumar, group head agri and IT businesses, ITC and the brain behind the much celebrated e-choupal initiative of ITC sees the Prime Minister’s announcement to repeal the three contentious farm laws as a step to end a stalemate. Sivakumar, a product of IRMA (Institute of Rural Management) which makes him an even more unique voice in the corporate arena says: “Outcomes are more important and if you find new mechanisms to deliver them and with acceptability to all the stakeholder then it is a progress.” That the focus of attention will now be on a committee set up to look at all issues relating to agriculture, including a move to zero budget farming, is progress indeed, he feels.
Since the farm laws were not implemented and were already kept on hold and now repealed does not materially change matters on the ground other than signal an end to a stalemate. As it is, he says, “once the laws were stayed there was no visibility on when they will get restarted.”
However, he does believe that the outcomes set out in the preambles of the three farm laws are still required. These are in terms of better market linkages for connecting the produce to the consumers, ensuring a higher return for the farmers. Apart from enabling farmers to know pricing ahead of planting instead of a discovery after harvesting. Plus, an ability to sell the produce after harvest without stock controls. “All these objectives are still very much required and one has to find another way of delivering them and perhaps that is why the setting up of a committee that will look into it all and at all aspects of agriculture is an important move,” he says.
The focus of attention, he also says, is now on the new committee which is meant to see the journey ahead in terms of getting to the objectives of ensuring farmers get more income and natural resources saved, among others. To him, the farm laws were one part of the larger initiatives that were rolled out apart from a whole gamut of initiatives that included the guidelines to create farmer producer institutions and to empower them through collectivisation organisations (FPOs). Then, there is the agri and allied infrastructure and the micro food enterprises funds that aimed to put money into the hands of the farmers to build post harvest infrastructure. All with an end goal to ensure that the farmer incomes go up and agriculture grows. With respect to the demands for minimum support price guarantee, he says, “you need to find solutions that are demand responsive and you need to ensure that price assurance is required.”