May 18, 2022 8:21:34 am
An assured Rs 6,000 per month to families of each farmer and farm labourer, constituting a national debt relief commission, no profit-no loss insurance for entire cultivable land, and MSP as legal guarantee are among some of the suggestions that a Bhupinder Singh Hooda-led committee on farm issues suggested in the Congress’ three-day Chintan Shivir in Rajasthan.
At least six suggestions regarding protecting farmers’ interests put forth by the committee were accepted by the party high command.
Hooda presented a detailed document on what the party’s future policies should include for protecting farmers’ interests and what it should promise to the agriculturists ahead of the Vidhan Sabha elections in different states and Lok Sabha polls of 2024.
“There were elaborate discussions on the issues pertaining to farmers. According to the information available, till March 31, 2021, farmers had a collective debt of Rs 16.80 lakh crore. The Centre has not taken any significant steps in this regard. Thus, the committee suggested that Congress must ensure setting up of a national debt relief commission with the mandate that it devise a roadmap for waiving farmers’ loans and enabling them to remain debt free. Also, it was suggested that in cases where farmers are not able to repay loans, their land should not be auctioned and nor should they be penalised with criminal charges,” Hooda told The Indian Express.
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The former Haryana chief minister said that the party high command also accepted the suggestion that if Congress forms the government, it will ensure legal guarantee of MSP. “After farmers’ year-long agitation, the Narendra Modi government had promised that a committee will be constituted to ensure MSP guarantee to farmers, but nothing happened in that direction. Agriculture scientist MS Swaminathan had recommended that MSP – which acts as a floor price to avoid distress sales – should be ‘at least 50 per cent more than the weighted average cost of production’. When we recommended 50 per cent over cost, we meant complete costs called C2, which includes all assumed costs. This is what I suggested that once elected to power, we must ensure that it is implemented. The high command accepted this suggestion too,” he added.
Hooda added that Congress will also ensure that the insurance policies for farmers be made free of any loopholes or riders. “The Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana has developed into a profit-making model for the insurance companies. In the last six years, private insurance companies earned a profit of Rs. 34,304 crore while farmers did not get any substantial benefit. I suggested that public sector insurance companies should insure entire cultivable land and run the policies for farmers on no profit, no loss model”.
The other suggestions included a separate allocation in Union budget pertaining to agriculture that should also give specifics on policies meant for upliftment of farmers’ income. “Farmers’ interests should be protected keeping in mind the natural calamities, crop damage etc for which a national farmers welfare fund should be constituted,” Hooda said.
He added that the Congress has also accepted the suggestion that once voted to power, it will ensure an assured monthly assistance of Rs 6,000 per month to the family of each farmer and farm worker. “I also suggested that the number of Mandis should be increased from 7,600 to 42,000 meaning there should be a mandi every 10 km. It was also suggested to increase MGNREGS hours and it was agreed upon in the Chintan Shivir that average wages under this scheme should be at par with the minimum wages (Rs 18,000 per month)”.
Talking to The Indian Express on the Congress’s vision for farmers, Devender Sharma, a renowned expert on food and agriculture affairs, said, “On the pattern of ease of doing business, the governments need to ensure ease of doing farming. Irrespective of which party’s government is in charge, they should understand that farmer does not need loan, he needs assured income. The governments should ensure that his income is guaranteed. The suggestions that Congress is talking about are definitely very important as solutions to the various problems that farmers are facing. There should be a permanent mechanism to ensure a viable income for farmers. There should be a commission for farmers’ income and welfare, at both national and state level. Over the decades, farmers’ interests have been kept impoverished. This is why so many agitations take place”.
On the debt relief commission, Sharma added, “Kerala had such a commission for farmers and it did a remarkable job. Other states should also have it. I must say that 70 per cent of the agrarian crisis is due to lack of governance”.
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