By Prarthana Mitra
The central government on Wednesday decided to fix minimum support price (MSP) of crops at a minimum of 1.5 times the production cost. This came after Finance Minister Arun Jaitley announced in his Union Budget speech that the “government will fix minimum support prices (MSP) for crops at 50% over costs.” The Centre’s decision was met with a lukewarm response by a parliamentary panel comprising members of all major political parties and headed by BJP Lok Sabha MP Hukmdev Narayan Yadav.
Panel’s suggestions for “comprehensive justice”
The parliamentary standing committee of agriculture is of the opinion that this issue of fixation of the MSP needs a “comprehensive reorientation in order to ensure remunerative prices of agriculture produce”. The panel also suggested that the Centre ought to consider some of its earlier recommendations on the necessity of region-wide MSP, broad-basing of data used by the Commission for Agricultural Cost and Prices (CACP) to fix the support price, and thus give more agency and representation to the farmers through the CACP platform.
Recommendations were also made to the government to strengthen its procurement mechanism, along with insistent suggestions to adopt a liberal financing pattern for implementation of the proposed Market Assurance Scheme (MAS) and Price Deficiency Procurement Scheme (PDPS). This, the committee said, would bring about “comprehensive justice” at a time when farmers’ movements are raging all over the country.
Satyagraha to ensure implementation
According to an article in The Wire, MSP should be linked to “input costs of farmers and with inflation”. Farmers’ organisations have been agitating for more sustainable MSP rates for a long time now. There have been several cases of dharnas, gheraos, public demonstrations, protest marches, strikes and farmer suicides in 2018 alone.
Following the Centre’s latest declaration, farmers will on March 14 launch a nation-wide ‘MSP Satyagraha’ from Yadgir, Karnataka. Several groups will visit the local ‘mandis’ (agricultural markets) in different states over the next 11 days to inspect and ensure that farmers are actually getting the MSP they have been promised.
Organised by the Jai Kisan Andolan of Swaraj Abhiyan, the MSP Satyagraha has managed to mobilise farmers all over the nation, especially after collaboration with several member organisations of the All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee (AIKSCC, parent body for a number of farmers’ rights activist groups). Yogendra Yadav, president of Swaraj India, announced the movement on Wednesday, inviting government officials, activists and even media to join in this “collective discovery of truth about MSP”.
Featured Image Source: Public Domain Pictures