Unlike Punjab, the farm Bills brought by the Congress government in Rajasthan to counter the Centre’s new farm laws are silent when it comes to enforcing the minimum support price (MSP) in sales that take place inside and outside the Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC) mandi mechanism.
One of the Bills in Rajasthan does speak about enforcing the MSP, but it is only limited to contract farming.
This is in contrast to the Bill passed by the Congress government in Punjab, which has defined the enforcement of MSP for purchase of two crops — wheat and paddy. “No sale or purchase of wheat or paddy shall be valid unless the price paid for such agricultural produce is equal to, or greater than, the Minimum Support Price announced by the Central Government for that crop,” states The Farmer’s Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) (Special Provisions and Punjab Amendment) Bill, 2020.
In Rajasthan, The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services (Rajasthan Amendment) Bill, 2020 has a provision for punishment for those who compel a farmer to sell his produce below the MSP, but this enforcement is limited only to contract farming.
The other Bill tabled in the Rajasthan Assembly on Saturday — The Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) (Rajasthan Amendment) Bill, 2020 — states that harassment of farmers will be punishable by imprisonment or fine or both but does not mention whether purchase below MSP will be deemed as harassment. It does not mention any specific crops as is the case with the law in Punjab.
Faith in mandi makes MSP crucial
Most of the farmers in Rajasthan sell to mandis as compared to contract farming, according to farmer leaders.
Besides, officials from the state Agricultural Marketing Department said there have been no formal registrations of contract farming since it was included in the Rajasthan APMC Act. “We have had no formal registration of contract farming since 2005, when contract farming as a provision was inculcated in the Rajasthan APMC Act. At present, the purchasing in Rajasthan is primarily from the APMC mandi mechanism and often farmers get prices even higher than the MSP at mandis. The MSP condition for contract farming in the new Bill tabled in the assembly is a safeguard for the farmers’ interest,” said Ashu Chaudhary, additional director, Agricultural Marketing Department, Rajasthan.
However, farmer leaders such as Kishan Pareek, a member of the All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS) from Sikar district, said that in many instances, even after going to mandis, farmers have to sell off their produce at much lesser prices.
As per data available on the government website agmarknet.gov.in, bajra (pearl millet), for which the MSP has been fixed at Rs 2,150 per quintal for this season, was sold at the Srimadhopur market in Rajasthan’s Sikar district at a maximum price of only Rs 1,428 per quintal as on October 30.
State education minister and Rajasthan Congress president Govind Singh Dotasara said the Centre decides its target for procurement at MSP from each state and 100 per cent procurement is done in Punjab, which is not the case in Rajasthan. “The MSP is the subject of the central government. If the clause for MSP is added (in the Bill), then who will take the 100 per cent produce of the farmer if the Centre doesn’t procure it? If nobody purchases it then the farmer will ultimately be at the loss. The Bills aim to ensure that in the name of contract farming no person is able to purchase from farmers lesser than the MSP. The idea is that the existing system which is in place continues but if contract farming arrives then the farmer’s grain is not sold below the MSP,” said Dotasara.
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