Skip to main content

Would Govt of India make law, ensure MSP for agriculture is 3 times the crop cost?

By Rajeev Khanna*
In a recent order, the Punjab and Haryana High Court said the minimum support price (MSP) in agriculture should be three times the cost of production of major crops to save farmers from distress. It asked the Government of India and the the Punjab government that MSP should be provided legal status, by coming up with a suitable legislation.
But the question is: Would these or a slew of other measures suggested address the agrarian crisis? According to experts, there are many important implications of the the court order, which was made while considering the Punjab State Cooperative Agricultural Development Bank’s move to discontinue a pension scheme citing lack of funds owing to loan waivers.
The two-member High Court bench of Justices Rajiv Sharma and Harinder Singh Sidhu also took up the all-important issue of non-implementation of the Prohibition of Private Money Lending Act, 2007, saying, small and marginal farmers are compelled to raise loans from non-institutional sources.
“As far as agriculture is concerned, MSP should be three times above the cost of production of major crops to save farmers from distress and also to procure food grains for public distribution considering the cost including actual expenses in cash and kind, the loan on lease land, impeding the cost of labour, own capital assets, interest on valuable capital etc,” read the court order.
Announced since 1965, MSP has failed to boost farmers’ income. “Time has come when the MSP should be given legal force by granting legal rights to farmers to get fair value for their crops,” the order insisted. The court added, enforcement must not be left with the bureaucratic setup which thrives at the cost of poor farmers. The state government, instead, "device methods to reduce the role of middlemen in procuring food grains."
Experts have welcomed these as important interventions, regretting, however, the governments have so far failed to give even half of the MSP the court has suggested. “Although MSP is announced for 23 crops, including Rabi and Kharif crops and sugarcane, the procurement on MSP is only done for wheat and paddy", said agricultural economist Gian Singh.
"If the farmer is given legal cover with regards to MSP, the onus will be on the government to procure all the crops for which MSP is announced", he pointed out, adding, as for MSP being three times the cost of production, "there needs to be a mechanism to contain the disparity over land holdings. The principle that the greater the farm size, the greater the remuneration does not work in favour of small land holders."
Quoting the National Crime Bureau Report, the court recalled, the number of suicides by farmers and farm labourers increased to 12,602 in 2015 from 12,360 in 2014 and 11,772 in 2013. Of these, 8,007 were farmers in 2015 and 5,650 in 2014. Data for 2018 have still not been published, it added.
Experts have welcomed court intervention, regretting, governments have failed to give even half of the MSP the it has suggested
Another issue the court addressed was regarding warehouses, saying, there is “no regular chain of warehouses for farmers to store their produce”. According to the court, “If the state government builds sufficient number of warehouses, the farmers can store their crops there and can sell it subsequently at remunerative price."
"Parliament has enacted the Warehousing (Development and Regulation) Act, 2007 but it has not been implemented in letter and spirit", it lamented.
While calling for the implementation of the Punjab Prohibition of Private Money Lending Act, 2007, the court directed that banks should ensure that no small and marginal farmer, whose land holding is less than five acres, is rendered landless. It asked the Punjab government to consider formulating a scheme for payment of reasonable compensation and family pension to families of farmers who have committed suicide.
Commenting on the court recommending a scheme to provide insurance cover, including weather insurance, to farmers for their crops in consultation with the National Insurance Companies along with stakeholders, at minimal premium, Singh said, “It needs to be ensured that loans are taken by farmers only from institutional sources. Further, the families of those who have committed suicides need to be given regular financial support.”
While the court asked Reserve Bank of India to frame a scheme on the manner in which agricultural loans are to be advanced, their recovery and waiver, farmer leader Gobinder Singh of the Bharatiya Kisan Union (Ugrahan) said since the compensation is paid to the person in whose name the land is registered in revenue records, agricultural labourers and those farming on contract hardly benefit.
“The government must conduct a survey every six months to ascertain who is tilling the land and who needs to be compensated,” demanded Gobinder Singh, who hails from Mangwal village in Sangrur, which is one of the districts that have seen maximum farmer suicides in Punjab.“Such interventions, as suggested by the court, have to be made if the farmers are to be saved and the corporatisation of agriculture has to be checked,” he added.
The court suggested that the Punjab government should develop cyber applications for each and every field to see the status of crop to determine its growth and destruction by natural calamities. These apps, which can be prepared Khasra-wise using satellite imagery, would save time as government and bank officials need not go to the field to verify their status.
“The emphasis must not only be on MSP, an issue that follows many other important recommendations of the MS Swaminathan Committee. The issue of land reforms needs to be visited on priority,” said Gian Singh.
---
*Senior Chandigarh-based journalist. A version of this article was first published in Down to Earth

Comments

TRENDING

Top upper caste judges 'biased' towards Dalit colleagues: US Bar Association report

By Rajiv Shah  A high profile report prepared by the influential  American Bar Association (ABA) Center for Human Rights , taking note of the fact that “in the 70-year history of the Indian Republic, only six Dalit judges have been appointed to the Supreme Court”, has taken strong exception to what it calls “lack of representation of Dalits” in the legal profession and the judiciary.

Unlike other revolutionaries, Hindutva icon wrote 5 mercy petitions to British masters

By Shamsul Islam*  The Hindutva icon VD Savarkar of the RSS-BJP rulers of India submitted not one, two,or three but five mercy petitions to the British masters! Savarkarites argue: “There are no evidences to prove that Savarkar collaborated with the British for his release from jail. In fact, his appeal for release was a ruse. He was well aware of the political developments outside and wanted to be part of it. So he kept requesting for his release. But the British authorities did not trust him a bit” (YD Phadke, ‘A complex Hero’, "The Indian Expres"s, August 31, 2004)

Savarkar 'criminally betrayed' Netaji and his INA by siding with the British rulers

By Shamsul Islam* RSS-BJP rulers of India have been trying to show off as great fans of Netaji. But Indians must know what role ideological parents of today's RSS/BJP played against Netaji and Indian National Army (INA). The Hindu Mahasabha and RSS which always had prominent lawyers on their rolls made no attempt to defend the INA accused at Red Fort trials.

Whither SDG goal? India's maternal mortality rate fall target 5.5% per yr, actual 4.5%

By Srinivas Goli, Parul Puri* The maternal mortality ratio (number of maternal deaths per one lakh live births) is a key and sensitive parameter used by health policymakers to monitor maternal health conditions in particular and women's status in general in a country.

Fresh efforts to subsume Buddhism within Hindu fold 'undermining' Ambedkar

By Aviral Anand*  From Yeola in 1935, when Dr Ambedkar announced that he would not die a Hindu, to Nagpur in 1956 when he converted to Buddhism, is a considerable distance in time. But, there was in him a need to make a public announcement in 1935 about moving away from Hinduism. 

How green revolution led to 'deterioration' of Punjab economy, land, air and water

By Dr Gian Singh*  A recent research paper, based on a survey of 320 farming families in four districts of Punjab, has tried to show that high crop densities and the use of inputs have led to degradation of land, air, water and humans through a rich agricultural structure. Although mechanization has increased agricultural productivity, it has also caused environmental degradation.

Savarkar 'opposed' Bhagat Singh's, Netaji's dream of India, supported British war efforts

By Shamsul Islam* In a shocking development, the student wing of the RSS put the busts of martyrs Bhagat Singh and Subhash Chandra Bose with Savarkar's on one pedestal at the University of Delhi late in the night on August 20, 2019. Bhagat Singh sacrificed his life for a socialist-democratic-secular republic and Netaji raised Azad Hind Fauj (INA) consisting of people of all religions and regions for armed liberation of India.

Buddhist shrines were 'massively destroyed' by Brahmanical rulers: Historian DN Jha

Nalanda mahavihara By Our Representative Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book , "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

Reverse progress in fight against hunger? 15.3% of India undernourished: GHI

By Harchand Ram*  Every year October 16 is observed as World Food Day to celebrate the date of the founding of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations. In the year 2021, the theme for World Food Day is “Our actions are our Future-Better Production, better nutrition, a better environment, and a better life”.

Abysmal deficit of water, food waste recycle treatment 'impacting' Chennai life

By Simi Mehta*  We are living in a state where the most basic needs like food and water are not assured to the people residing in the urban areas, which account for the biggest sources of food and water wastage. Socio-economic inequality in society which is pervasive in urban areas is one of the main reasons for this.