This minimum price does not offer enough support, protest farmers’ unions

Most of them claim that even if the amount is lower, even the number of beneficiaries is too small compared to the number of farmers in the country

The Minimum Support Price (MSP) for Kharif crops has increased, albeit marginally, with each marketing year. The Center also announced an increase in purchases compared to the corresponding purchases in previous years. The purchasing figures agree.

Farmers’ unions reject the amount as insufficient. They say the change in MSP has been relatively small and the price is not enough. The cost of production varies from state to state and not all farmers are eligible for MSP.

RSS affiliate Bharatiya Kisan Sangh (BKS) has repeatedly stressed that currently the program is reaching less than 10% of the country’s farmers.

“We demanded the legalization of the minimum support price (MSP),” said Badrinarayan Chaudhary, secretary general of BKS, “we are still awaiting the government’s response.”

The BKS has stayed away from the ongoing agitation against the Centre’s controversial farm laws. The organization prefers to call itself apolitical and qualifies the protests as politically motivated.

However, there is an urgent need for certain issues to be incorporated into this draft or to make new laws. One being the legalization of MSP.

For its part, the government has repeatedly assured that the MSP was here to stay. Insiders point out that legislation may not be on the cards. The process would involve a lengthy exercise where many other aspects are involved, including the formation of a structure for related laws and the establishment of courts.

Currently, the Center sets MSPs for 23 agricultural products. These include grains like paddy, wheat, corn, barley, bajra, jowar, and ragi; and impulses such as chana, urad, moong, arhar / tur and masur. Support is also extended to rapeseed-mustard, peanuts, soybeans, sunflowers, sesame, safflower and niger; as well as cash crops such as copra, cotton, sugarcane and raw jute.

“In the case of paddy, for every quintal bought, the government pays farmers Rs. 630 less than what the Swaminathan Committee proposed,” said Abhimanyu Kohar of Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM), a joint platform of unions organizing protests against the three agricultural laws.

The 28-year-old national coordinator of Rashtriya Kisan Mahasangh (RKM) is hailed as the youngest member of the SKM national committee.

SKM is an umbrella organization of some 40 farmer unions, many of which in turn include several smaller organizations. The RKM is also an association of more than 60 farmers’ organizations.

Kohar was referring to a report by the National Farmers Commission (NCF). The NCF was formed in 2004 under the chairmanship of Prof. MS Swaminathan.

The NCF submitted five reports, the last on October 4, 2006. Farmer unions demand the implementation of the Commission’s formula for C2 + 50%. This means guaranteeing 50% of the returns, taking into account all costs of cultivation, including the imputed cost of capital and the rent or lease of the land (even if it is owned).

The unions say the government now pays on Professor Swaminathan’s A2 + FL formula. According to them, it is lower because it takes into account the paid costs incurred by a farmer and the value of family labor.

Odisha’s government has also asked the Center to increase the MSP of paddy to Rs 2,930 per quintal for its farmers. The state stressed that the peasants were also confronted with the vagaries of nature.

Last month, the Union Cabinet approved an increase in the MSP for all mandatory kharif crops for the 2021-22 marketing season. Paddy is the main Kharif crop.

But Punjab President Shiromani Akali Dal Sukhbir Singh Badal called the hike “lean.”

“Farmers have been losing out since the MSP for the purchase of paddy was announced at Rs. 1,960 per quintal, while under the C2 + 50% formula it should be Rs. 2,590 per quintal,” said Kohar.

“Likewise, for cotton, the formula C2 + 50% is equivalent to Rs. 7,753 per quintal, but the government has announced an MSP of Rs. 5,726 per quintal. So, here too, farmers lose Rs. 2,027 each quintal ”, he added.

According to BKS ‘Badrinarayan Chaudhary, “For a farmer, it (MSP) is the main problem. Not all farmers benefit from public markets, this is a tiny fraction.

He argued that the Center should legalize PSM, even if it is not at C2 + 50%. This, he assumes, would guarantee a support price for farmers even if their products are purchased by private actors.

But according to Kohar, farmers can only avoid getting into debt if the government guarantees payment using the C2 + 50% formula.

“Although the Swaminathan committee’s proposals were known in 2007, the Congress-led Union government did nothing during his tenure,” he said.

“Unfortunately, during the 2014 election campaign, Narendra Modi promised its implementation. But in 2015, his government submitted an affidavit to the Supreme Court that it cannot provide MSP at C2 + 50%, Kohar said.

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