The Maharashtra government plans to bring a legislation in the forthcoming Winter Session, making non-adherence to the minimum support price (MSP) for farm produce a criminal offence. The Winter Session of the state legislature begins on December 11 in Nagpur.
To enforce the legislation, the government will have to elicit support from all parties in the House, ensuring its smooth passage in the Legislative Assembly and the Legislative Council. Highly placed sources in the government said though the mechanism of determining the MSP for farm produce was the Centre’s prerogative, the Maharashtra government’s initiative aimed to arrest the exploitation of farmers by traders who are often found to manipulate the markets.
Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis had mooted the proposal almost a year ago and also discussed it with the Centre. Some quarters have, however, raised doubts over its effective enforcement across the board. “The state government legislation has noble intentions. But the Centre and the state will have to evolve a working formula to make it practical,” said a former member of the Commission for Agriculture Costs and Prices (CACP). The CACP, which comes under the Union agriculture ministry, determines the MSP for farm commodities. Currently, there are only 25 to 35 commodities shortlisted for an MSP.
Notwithstanding the technicalities, the objective of the legislation is to provide higher remuneration to farmers, claims the government. The National Commission on Farmers, chaired by noted agriculture scientist Prof M S Swaminathan, had suggested in its report that the “MSP to farmers should be at least 50 per cent more than the weighted average of cost of production”.
The state, however, believes the commission’s theory of MSP would be detrimental to Maharashtra farmers whose average yield per acre/hectares is lower compared to some other states, such as the neighbouring Gujarat.
According to a study, a farmer in Maharashtra making an average investment of Rs 35,000 per hectare gets Rs 44,000 as returns. On the other hand, a Gujarat farmer making an average investment of Rs 42,000 per hectare reaps a dividend of Rs 88,000. The government is of the view that it will have to focus on higher capital investments for the next five years to double the production and income of farmers.