THE STATE government is under pressure from various farmer organisations to put in place a mechanism to ensure stricter implementation of MSP for crops at Agriculture Produce Market Committees (APMCs).
The state cabinet sub-committee led by Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar formed to study the new farm laws is considering ways to minimise exploitation of farmers at APMCs on MSP. A policy framework to make MSP mandatory is being worked out. Highly placed sources said, “At this moment, it’s evident that the state government is not going to support the three legislations of the Modi government. But what is being considered at the state level is to streamline the process to facilitate MSP for farm produce at APMCs.”
A senior secretary said, “In principle, all three ruling party — Congress, NCP and Shiv Sena — members in the cabinet sub-committee believe there cannot be any dispute on MSP. Therefore, they are working to restructure policies to make MSP implementation stricter. However, the state government is cautious not to make non-implementation of MSP a criminal offence.”
The Congress and NCP, which wield sizeable clout in the APMCs, fear taking an extreme step like making violation of MSP a criminal offence would invite backlash. Another aspect they believe is, agriculture sector cannot function within a fixed framework. It has to be flexible. Maharashtra, with 302 APMCs, provides the largest market infrastructure. The annual turnover in state APMCs is estimated at Rs 50,000 crore. Almost all 35 farmer organisations have regularly demanded restructuring of APMCs to stop exploitation.
Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana president Raju Shetti said, “Unless MSP is guaranteed, farmer reforms are meaningless. The question is not about whether APMCs should remain or be replaced. The core issue is making MSP must for procurement. It should be applicable at any cost.”
Agriculture Minister Dadasaheb Bhuse and Cooperation Minister Balasaheb Patil underlined the fact that farmers deserve higher returns for their crops. According to Patil, “Maharashtra has always played a significant role to procure maximum crops during kharif and rabi season from farmers at MSP. The state intervention is to stabilise the markets and ensure crop sold outside also fetches higher price.”
Notwithstanding assurances from government, the question that stares farmers is absence of monitoring mechanism. Farmers cannot dispute if APMCs declare their crop as lower grade or points to greater moisture in yield. They have to compromise on lower price. Or look for alternative which adds to expenses.
Former agriculture minister Anil Bonde argues, “To stop farmers’ exploitation there has to be competitive markets. The freedom to sell their crops anywhere in the country will help them unshackle the bondage with APMCs. This will also stop their exploitation. Moreover, APMCs will also be forced to take corrective steps if they realise they cannot take farmers for granted.”
The Congress and NCP government by opposing the agriculture reforms are demoralising the farmers who will be at the mercy of APMCs, observed Bonde.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines