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Explained Ideas: Why Punjab’s farmers oppose the new farm laws

Ajay Vir Jakhar explains how the issue of farmer livelihood could morph into a question of Punjab’s survival.

By: Explained Desk | New Delhi |
October 22, 2020 8:37:53 am
Punjab, Punjab farm laws, Punjab farmers protests, Punjab farmers laws, Farm bills 2020, Indian ExpressPunjab Chief Minister Capt. Amarinder Singh along with MLAs of the Congress, AAP and SAD outside the Raj Bhawan on Tuesday in Chandigarh. (Express Photo: Kamleshwar Singh)

To nullify the possible impact of the three farm acts passed by the Parliament, the Punjab government passed its own bills on Tuesday. These broadly attempt to ensure continued procurement of wheat and paddy at the minimum support price (MSP), uphold the powers of the courts in dispute settlement and empower the state to regulate trade of foodgrain.

The question is: Why do Punjab farmers oppose the new farm laws brought in by the central government?

In his opinion piece in The Indian Express, Ajay Vir Jakhar, chairman, Bharat Krishak Samaj, explains the reasons.

The three farm acts were preceded by a high-level committee in 2015, headed by Shanta Kumar, which suggested measures to reorient the Food Corporation of India (FCI)’s operations by shifting away from the public distribution system to cash transfers.

This negates the very requirement of MSP procurement.

The Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices has been recommending reviewing the open-ended procurement of foodgrain, which is also reflected in the recent RBI annual report that says that the MSP is no solution to farmer’s woes.

“Similar views were expressed by a Union cabinet minister lately. Therefore, the farmers infer that a path that makes MSP procurement redundant is inevitable and fear it will become applicable after the 2022 assembly elections,” writes Jakhar.

According to his calculations, without assured procurement in Punjab, the losses to the state could exceed Rs 15,000 crore.

“After reneging on the promise of fixing the MSP by the C2+50 per cent formula, the government settled on the (A2+FL)+50 per cent formula where the derived MSP is far less. There are rumours that to stave off a financial crisis, MSP in the future will be calculated separately for each state depending on their cost of cultivation. If true, in Punjab, the MSP for wheat and paddy will reduce to Rs 1,035 and Rs 1,094 per quintal respectively — the loss could be more than Rs 26,000 crore,” he writes.

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He states that an opportunity has been lost in the lackadaisical handling of the issue and ends his piece with a warning.

“I doubt if future historians will recall when Punjab changed course, and how an issue of farmer livelihood morphed into one of Punjab’s survival.”

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