AHEAD OF another round of meetings between farmers’ unions and the Centre on the three farm laws on Saturday, experts from Punjab said the Centre may go by the current practice of Minimum Support Price (MSP), rather than making it a legal right of farmers.
Farmers have been demanding that the laws be rolled back and MSP be guaranteed to them as per law.
MSP has no legal status and is a government policy that has been in practice since 1966-67, around the time of the ‘Green Revolution’.
Experts said that if MSP is made legal, the government would have to ensure the purchase of farmers’ produce as per the announced MSP, either by purchasing it itself or through private players. Legal status to MSP will have to cover 100 per cent farmers as against 6 per cent farmers currently, as per the report of the Shanta Kumar-led high level committee on ‘Restructuring of Food Corporation of India (FCI)’ in January 2015, and 15-25 per cent farmers as per reports of various crops procured by different government agencies on assured prices other than wheat and paddy.
Renowned Economist Dr Sardara Singh Johal told The Indian Express that MSP is given for those crops which can be stored for the next year, and perishable items like fruits and vegetables are hardly covered under MSP. He said that the current government, on the recommendation of the Commission for Agriculture Cost and Price (CACP), had announced MSP for 23 crops which included seven cereals and seven oil seeds crops, five pulses and four commercial crops like cotton, sugarcane, raw jute and copra.
“If the government makes MSP a legal entity, which is a long-exercised practice in the country without any legal status, it will have to cover all crops, all farmers, and will have to lift these crops if their market price goes below as announced by the MSP by the government. Currently, out of these 23 crops, most are sold to private players by farmers as government is not bound to purchase these except some crops but it will not be the case if MSP would become a legal right,” said he, adding that it may further worsen the situation because to decrease its burden, government will try to keep the MSP below the prevailing market price of the crops so that more farmers would prefer to sell in the market instead government.
“There would also be many complications in that system too,” he added.
“If government is saying that these three Bills are in favour of the farmers but the beneficiaries (farmers) are not happy with that, the government should simply cancel these and make bring about some needed reforms in the existing system of mandis, procurement and crop price,” said Johal, adding that the government cannot run from the prevailing current MSP system because under Public Distribution System (PDS) it is mandatory to procure wheat, paddy, pulses, oil seeds, cotton, cane etc. to distribute grain to nearly 65 per cent population of the country.
Instead of a confrontation with the farmers, the government should sort it out with mutual understanding, which should benefit the farmers, the country’s land and the country itself, he further said.
MSP was started in India when India was grain deficit and farmers were to be motivated to grow assured price crops.
“Government cannot escape from MSP. Even if government makes MSP legal and says that it will cover only small and marginal farmers under the MSP regime, then too, majority farmers will come under MSP ambit as the country has 85 per cent small and marginal farmers and the remaining will also try to come under it by dividing the land holdings among family members so as to be fit under the regime of small and marginal farmers,” said Gian Singh, a retired economics professor and expert on farm issues.
Bharti Kisan Union (Ugrahan) General Secretary Sukhdev Singh Kokrikalan said that making MSP legal was a long-sought demand of the farmers unions and now these Bills have made the ill-intentions of the government clear towards farming communities. “CACP has also recommended a couple of years back that MSP be made legal, our demand is the same,” he said.
A senior professor from Punjab Agriculture university (PAU) Ludhiana, said that by bringing three unwanted agri laws, the Union government has awakened among farmers a long-pending demand of MSP and now it is to be seen how the Centre can spare it from not being made a legal right.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines