On the frontline of protests against three farm laws are farmers who have availed the minimum support price (MSP) during the ongoing kharif marketing season but now fear whether MSP-based procurement will continue in coming years.
“A few days ago I sold my paddy crop —200 quintal — to the arhatiya (commission agent) at MSP of Rs 1,888 per quintal and received money in my account…. This time, I have availed MSP. I am not sure whether we will get it the next time,” Jagdeep Singh Mann, a farmer from Punjab’s Fatehgarh Sahib district, said on Monday.
Mann is among thousands of farmers protesting on a stretch of NH-44, near Singhu border. One of the three laws– Farmers Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020—allows trade in farm produce outside the existing APMC mandi (market yards), which is the cause of concern among many farmers on removal of MSP-based procurement.
While there is no mention of MSP in the law, protesting farmers say that once APMC mandis weaken after the implementation of new laws, MSP-based procurement, which is in place since decades, will also end.
Satnam Singh, from Qila Bharian village in Sangrur district, said due to absence of MSP-based procurement, farmers in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar are forced to sell their produce at much lower prices. “Maize MSP is around Rs 1,800 per quintal but private traders are buying it at Rs 800 per quintal in UP and Bihar,” he said. “This year, I grew paddy on about 25 acres. I sold my produce in the mandi at MSP. I have got my payment. The present system should continue.”
Holding a flag of Bhartiya Kisan Union (Dakaunda), he also said, “Until the government gives us MSP guarantees in writing, we will not end our protest. We have made all arrangements of ration for six month. We will continue to protest here.”
Pargat Singh, 58, who cultivates 2.5 acres of land in Tarn Taran district, said, “If farmers sell their products outside APMC mandis, these mandis will collapse in coming years. Farmers will Then face trouble.”
Comparing the situation with telecom companies that initially offered free data to lure customers and subsequently increased the rates, Singh, a member of Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Committee, Punjab, said corporate buyers will also offer a higher price than MSP initially but after a year or two, they will go below MSP.
Karnajit, from Tarn Taran, said he sold his paddy to the arhatiya at local APMC mandi at MSP: “Even before the harvest of my crop, I had taken money from the arhatiya in mandi. If the mandi is not there, where will I borrow money in an emergency situation?”
Asked about the government’s invitation for discussion, Pargat Singh said, “We will talk only with Prime Minister Narendra Modi. We will not talk to ministers.”