The Rs 40 hike in minimum support price for wheat announced Wednesday sparked sharp reactions from the farmer unions who termed the 2.03 per cent increase — the lowest in 12 years — as Centre’s “revenge” against them for protesting against the three contentious agri laws. Some farmer unions said that MSP for the most Rabi crops, which has been increased between 2 per cent to 8.6 per cent, have actually reduced in real terms by 4 per cent compared to the last year.
While BJP leaders hailed the MSP hike as “another step taken towards doubling the income of farmers by 2022”, the Congress leaders termed it as “grossly insufficient” and “a cruel joke on farmers”.
Announcing the decision taken during the a meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA), Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the increased MSPs would ensure remunerative prices to farmers.
According to an official statement, wheat MSP has been raised by Rs 40 to Rs 2,015 per quintal for procurement season 2022-23. The cost of production of wheat is estimated at Rs 1,008 per quintal.
Farmers, however, questioned the estimates saying that the hike will not even cover the input costs that have shot up phenomenally.
Sarwan Singh Pandher, general secretary of the Kisan Mazdoor Sangrash Committee (KMSC) termed the hike as “cruel joke on farmers”. “Rate of diesel, the fuel on which farming equipment runs, has increased by more than Rs 20 a litre. The hike does not even cover that and shows the anti-farmer face of the BJP-led NDA government,” he said.
Gora Singh Bhainibagha, senior vice-president of Punjab Kisan Union (PKU), echoed Pandher. “In September last year, diesel was at Rs 70 a litre. It is now over Rs 91 a litre. While government did not increase the urea price, but while last year we could get a 50-kg bag of urea for Rs 250, now we only get a 45-kg bag the same rate. From Rs 250-300 per litre last year, the prices of insecticides and pesticides have shot up to Rs 350-450 a litre. Prices of tractors and other farming equipment have also increased. The only thing where this inflation is not reflected is the MSP,” said Gora Singh, who carries out farming at his native Bhainibagha village of Mansa.
PKU president Ruldu Singh Mansa was more direct. “MSP is what we are fighting for. One can see how well we have been heard.”
Thousands of farmers from across the country, particularly Punjab and Haryana, have been camping at Delhi borders since November last year demanding the repeal of the three farm laws and a new law to guarantee minimum support price (MSP) for their crops.
In 2014-15, MSP for wheat was Rs 1,400 a quintal, which was increased by Rs 50 in 2015-16, and by Rs 75 in 2016-17. In 2017-18, it was hiked by Rs 100 per quintal taking the MSP for wheat to Rs 1,625. The next two years saw a hike of Rs 110 and Rs 105 per quintal. In 2020-21, the government increased the MSP for wheat by Rs 85, taking the cumulative to Rs 1,925 per quintal.
Apart from wheat, the Centre also hiked the MSP for barley by Rs 35, gram by Rs 130, lentil (masurby Rs 400, mustard seed by Rs 400 and safflower by Rs 114 per quintal.
Rejecting the MSP hike, some farmer leaders said that the government is still “misusing” the term “comprehensive cost” while calculating the cost of production.
The farmer leaders said that as per the analysis of ASHA (Alliance for Sustainable and Holistic Agriculture) Kisan Swaraj, a group of people working on farmers’ issues, as compared to last year the MSP of wheat, safflower, barley, and gram has increased by 2 per cent, 2.1 per cent, 2.2 per cent and 2.5 per cent, respectively while the inflation rate was 6 per cent. By these calculations, in real terms, the MSP of wheat, safflower, barley and gram has been reduced to by -4 per cent, -3.9 per cent, -3.8 per cent and -3.5 per cent, respectively, as compared to last year.
“The government is misusing the term ‘Comprehensive Costs’ which has always been used to refer to C2 Cost of Production. As pointed out by farmer organizations since 2018, the government is blatantly deceiving the nation by using a lower cost measure A2+FL and claiming that it is giving (the MSP) 50 per cent above cost. For example, in 2021-22, the comprehensive C2 cost of production for wheat was Rs 1,467, which is 50 per cent higher than the Rs 960 cost of production calculated by the government,” said Jagmohan Singh, general secretary Bharti Kisan union (BKU Dakuanda, on the behalf of Samyukt Kisan Morcha (SKM).
Jagmohan Singh said “farmers of India reject this government’s play with numbers and demand real profits not imaginary profits”.
“If the government goes by actual C2 formula then the MSP of wheat would have been around 40 per cent above the current one,” said farmer leader.
SKM leaders assert that without a legal guarantee, the MSP is of no value for most of the farmers because their crops are not procured by the government and they are forced to sell it at lesser rates to the private players.
“C2 includes all actual expenses in cash and kind incurred in production by owner, which includes value of hired human resource, owned machine labour, hired machinery charges, value of seeds both farm produced and purchased, value of pesticides, value of manure owned and purchased, value of fertilisers, irrigation charges, depreciation on implements and farm. Holdings, land revenue, interest on working capital, miscellaneous expenses like artisans, rent paid for leased land, and family labour (FL) etc too need to be calculated. Dr M S Swaminathan’s report had recommended C2 along with an additional 50 per cent margin to calculate the MSP, but government is using A2+ FL and a 50 per cent margin on it as A2 does not include several expenses covered under C2,” said farm experts.
Pandher said, “Wheat is grown mostly in Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh and farmers in tese three states will be largely affected. In other states, farmers don’t even get any MSP on wheat,” he added.
Sowing of wheat in Punjab will start in November.
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