MSP: Minimum Support Price or Manmarji Support Price?

Amalendu Upadhyaya
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The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, on June 7, has approved the increase in the Minimum Support Prices (MSP) for all mandated Kharif Crops for Marketing Season 2023-24.

The government claims that it has increased the MSP of Kharif Crops for Marketing Season 2023-24, to ensure remunerative prices to the growers for their produce and to encourage crop diversification.

 But, if the government is so anxious about the welfare of the farmers, then why does it not provide an umbrella of legalized MSP law to the farmers? And why do the farmers have to sell their produce at lower rates despite the declared MSP? Why are they protesting on roads to get the announced MSP?

If we see a two-year back scenario, for their demand of repealing the three black laws and legalizing Minimum Support Price (MSP) for their crop produce, farmers of the entire country agitated at the Delhi Border in a year-long protest during 2020-21 losing their hundreds of warriors, however, they temporarily forced to bow down the central government to nullify the black laws but got no guarantee of legalized MSP.

The present mood of the government does not seem to have calmed down yet and still looks as if it is apoplectic with rage.

The government’s this enraged behaviour was reflected when brutal sticks were hitting and wavering over the heads to legs of the farmers on June 6 and this Lathi-charge over the protesting farmers on National Highway near Kurukshetra not only scattered the agitating farmers but also their hopes that they will get MSP for their Sunflower produce and also this lath-charge clearly messaged that the government has decided not to carry on the MSP in its true sense in future also.

However, just on the next day of the lathi-charge, to cool down the irritating wounds of the farmers and publicize that the government is very much anxious about the farmers, the central government announced the MSP for Kharif Marketing Season (KMS) 2023-24, in which the MSP of Sunflower has been increased from present Rs. 6400 to Rs.6760 per quintal.

But, here arises the question– “When the government is not procuring the Sunflower seeds even on the previous MSP of Rs.6400/ and the farmers are forced to sell their produce at throw-away prices, then what remains the meaning of enhancing the MSP from 6400/ to 6760/?” Just to announce the MSP on papers and not follow on the ground is proving ‘Much ado about nothing’.

What did the Haryana Govt and the Farmers plead?

Defending the government step, HAFED Chairman Kailash Bhagat on June 6, said, “The work of procurement of sunflower crop has been started in the state. Work is being done by HAFED to buy sunflower crops at the commercial rate of Rs 4800 per quintal and Rs 1000 per quintal being given under the Bhavantar Bharpayee Yojana to compensate the farmers.”

But, Bhartiya Kisan Union, in a press release, pleads that if sunflower is purchased by HAFED @Rs 4800 per quintal and compensation given @1000 rupees per quintal under Bhavantar Yojana, even then the rate becomes 5800 per quintal, while the MSP of sunflower is 6400 per quintal, according to this, 600 rupees per quintal is the direct loss to the farmer per quintal.  In this way, there will be a loss of Rs 6000 per acre if farmers do not get this money from Bhavantar Yojana, then this loss will be Rs 16000 per acre.

After the lathicharge, the issue of Sunflower seeds procurement has become a major self-created problem for the Haryana Government. And it seems that the government itself is showing red rags to the bull.

Haryana Chief Minister, Manohar Lal Khattar says,”At present, the procurement of sunflower is being done at Rs.  4800, while Punjab is procuring the same at Rs. 4000-4200. So, we doubt that Punjab will also procure their crop in our mandis.”

While clarifying the ongoing issue between the sunflower farmers and the Government regarding MSP, the Haryana CM in a press conference on June 10, said that when we procured the Millet on MSP, later it was found that the farmers of other states are also selling their Millet crops in our Mandis. This created an issue of interstate smuggling.

“Now a similar possibility is arising in the sunflower procurement, so as a precaution, we have announced the interim Bharpai, as the market rates keep fluctuating,” asserted the Chief Minister.

The opposition has got the chance to slam the Govt

Major opposition parties of the state have also slammed the government for cane-charging the farmers and not acceding to their demand.

Indian National Congress General Secretary and former Union Minister Kumari Selja said that lathi-charge and arrest of farmers demanding minimum support price on sunflowers in Shahbad, Kurukshetra is highly condemnable.

“The government is working to suppress the voice of the farmers; it reminds us of the cruelty of British rule. Drunk on power, the BJP-JJP coalition government wants to suppress the voice of the people of the state by adopting such repressive policies.”  She demanded that the government should ensure the purchase of sunflower crops at the minimum support price.

Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) supremo and former Chief Minister of the state Ch. Om Prakash Chautala strongly condemned the lathi-charge by the police in Kurukshetra on Tuesday on farmers protesting for the purchase of sunflower crops at MSP.

Chautala said, “The BJP government is wreaking havoc on the farmers, who feed the people of the whole country are being trampled on the roads, lathis are being showered on them, cases are being filed against them and they are being put in jail.”

To cool down the anger of agitating farmers, Haryana Chief Minister, in the press conference, clarified that the government will take a positive decision for the sunflower farmers. A detailed study about the market rate is going on, and once this process is done, we will make a pivotal announcement.

Urging the farmers not to fall prey to anyone who is trying to mislead them, CM Khattar said that some farmer unions and political leaders are defaming the name of farmers by misleading them.

“Blocking highways is not the solution to everything. In a democracy, we can’t hinder anyone’s freedom. We have done a lot for the farmers.  We held positive talks with the farmers. The court order also said that the matter should be resolved amicably. The police followed the court’s decision.”

Despite showing lip sympathy and claiming to be a well-wisher of the farmers, the conclusion of the Chief Minister’s press conference is that the ‘water will flow in the same pipe’. This line of his statement clears so, “I urge the farmers that this agitation is not going to help them anyway. The decision would be taken as per the market rate, ” said the Chief Minister.

What is MSP? Why is it needed?

In the era of ups and downs in the market, the farmers always remain on the loser’s side. So, to save the farmers from the unexpected losses, MSP was made an integral part of India’s agricultural price policy. It was declared in 1965 as a tool for agricultural price policy to meet many objectives. The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA), the Government of India, and the Commission for Agricultural Cost and Prices (CACP) decide the MSP of different agricultural produce in India.

Minimum Support Price (MSP) is fixed as the assured price rate at which the government purchases the crop produce from the farmers, when the market price falls down, It acts as a kind of assurance and insurance to protect the farmers.

Broadly speaking, MSP assures farmers that they will get a reasonable minimum price for their crops, no matter how low the market rate goes. Second, they come to know in advance for which crop the MSP is the more profitable price, on the basis of which they can cultivate the more profitable crop. The government also gets help in policy-making and it can attract farmers towards crop diversification by setting higher minimum support prices for the agricultural produce they want to be grown more.

But despite the government declaring the minimum support price already, going back on its promise not only raises questions on the credibility of the government, but also betrays the farmers by depriving them of the fixed minimum support price. The recent Kurukshetra Kisan Andolan is the sad result of the government’s action of withdrawing from procuring the sunflower crop at the declared MSP. That’s why it becomes necessary that the MSP  should be guaranteed under the law. Otherwise, it will not take long for the time to come when the farmers will start refusing to give their crops to the government for storage and the government will have to face a shortage of food grains for distribution to the poor at cheaper rates or free of cost, due to which the food security plan of the government may get a setback.

And such voices have started to echo. Punjab Assembly Speaker Kultar Singh Sandhwan , while addressing a function on crop diversity at Mohali on June 8, said , “Diversification is the need of the hour and the Centre needed to understand the importance of MSP. We will need to stop raising questions on MSP. MSP will have to be given, those who raise questions on MSP they are not nationalists. If Adani can understand the importance of MSP, why cannot the government?”, reports Indian express. He further said that MSP needed to be given, “If you want to keep the nation happy, then you will have to keep Punjab happy. If you want Rice, we  will give you Rice but you have to give us MSP.”

Now it’s in the hands of the central government, which path they choose; legalized Minimum Support Price or Manmarji Support Price. 

(Writer is Senior Journalist, Columnist & Political Analyst at CHANDIGARH)

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