Two MPs – Raju Shetti from the Swabhimani Paksha and K.K. Ragesh from the CPI (M) – are planning to move two private members’ bills, dealing with “Farmers’ Right to Guaranteed Remunerative Minimum Support Prices for Agricultural Commodities” and “Farmers’ Freedom from Indebtedness”, in the current session of Parliament.
“Both Bills have been prepared by the All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee (AIKSC), an umbrella body of 193 farmer organisations, after extensive consultations and ground-level feedback. I will give notice for introductions of the two bills in the Lok Sabha, while Ragesh would do the same in the Rajya Sabha,” Shetti told The Indian Express.
The AIKSC is holding a round table in the national capital on Wednesday to canvass support for the passage of the two Bills. “The former Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar and host of other opposition party leaders – including Sharad Yadav, Farooq Abdullah, Y.S. Chowdary (Telugu Desam Party), M. Rajamohan Reddy (YSR Congress), Kanimozhi (DMK), Sanjay Raut (Shiv Sena), Sitaram Yechury (CPIM), D. Raja (CPI), Jay Prakash Narayan Yadav (Rashtriya Janata Dal) and Babulal Marandi (Jharkhand Vikas Morcha) – have consented to attend the round table. We have also sent out invitations to the Congress,” said VM Singh, convenor of the AIKSC.
The first bill proposes to make “guaranteed remunerative minimum support prices (MSP)” for all crops a legal right for farmers throughout India. The MSPs would provide a minimum 50 per cent return over production costs, which shall be “comprehensive” and covering all paid-out as well as imputed expenses. The MSPs would further be determined by a Central Farmers’ Agricultural Costs and Remunerative Price Guarantee Commission, which will be an autonomous body corporate and whose chairperson and members would be appointed by the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition and the Union Agriculture Minister. The Commission’s recommendations would be binding on the Centre, which will have to notify the guaranteed remunerative MSPs on or before February 28th of every year for ensuing kharif production season and on or before July 31st ahead of the rabi season.
The second bill seeks to provide “a one-time immediate and complete loan waiver” to all farmers against debt incurred on account of agricultural production and owed to institutional as well as private creditors. “The loan waiver shall be implemented in a single installment by the Government within 3 months of the commencement of this Act. The government shall ensure that all farmers get fresh loans in the ensuing season without any impact due to the implementation of loan waiver,” states the proposed bill, while adding that all private debt of farmers will also “stand null and void” and “no proceeding or suit will lie against the farmer for the principal or interest”.
“We want both the bills to get passed as the two are closely connected. If the issue of remunerative prices alone is tackled without providing relief from indebtedness, the higher returns will only go to pay back past loans. On the other hand, if only loan waivers are provided without addressing the issue of remunerative prices, farmers will again be pushed back into debt trap,” Singh pointed out.