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Injustice? India’s 'rich, pampered' farmers turn against Modi favouring a super rich duo

By Mohan Guruswamy*
This is an interesting situation. India's richest and most pampered farmers turn against a government that they say is turning on them to favour the super rich duo considered close to Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The economic consequences of crony capitalism are the same as preferred farming communities. Both are injustices.
It must be said that procurement under the Minimum Support Price (MSP) is a privilege that accrues to the better off. The vast majority of the country are subsistence farmers (almost 83 percent of all farmers), and the Indian state has largely ignored them. The truth is that the Indian state favours the big farmers and the crony capitalists, both of who have cornered the benefits and bank loans.
The disparity in MSP procurement is a huge injustice. Why is it that no food grains are procured in Bihar? Between the two crony classes the people of India have been ignored.
Despite farmers’ unrest over three agricultural laws, the Centre’s kharif paddy procurement jumped 18.78 percent to 310.61 lakh tonnes so far this year. The purchase from Punjab farmers alone crossed over 65 per cent. Naturally, the Punjab and Haryana farmers want this to last for ever.
About Rs 58,644.65 crore worth of paddy has been purchased at MSP from about 28.45 lakh farmers so far from Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Telangana, Uttarakhand, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Andhra Pradesh. Besides, planting of winter crops has exceeded last year’s level by 13.46 percent. The data showed that winter crops were sown at 348.24 lakh hectare this year as compared to the 334.78 lakh hectare last year.
Government agencies have procured 310.61 lakh metric tonnes (LMT) of paddy (till November 26) as against the 261.48 LMT last year, an increase of 18.78 percent this year. Out of the total purchase of 310.61 lakh tonne, Punjab alone has contributed 202.65 lakh tonne, which is 65.24 percent of the total procurement. 
Very clearly MSP procurement helps relatively few and concentrated in a few regions. It shows in their per capita incomes which are relatively high without much industrialisation. Besides, 90 percent of the arable land is irrigated, with free electricity and subsidized chemical fertilizers.
MSP is a privilege that accrues to the better off. The vast majority in the country are subsistence farmers. Indian state has largely ignored them
These farmers have been opposed to the changes from the very beginning. They see the laws as an attack on their identity and a means to fundamentally alter the way they have been farming for the past few generations, after the advent of the Green Revolution and to policies to obviate food grain imports.
The first protests started in July, in Haryana and in Punjab. They want to be assured of MSP procurement in perpetuity.
I think all our states must get a MSP procurement quota so that the benefits are distributed equitably between regions. Isn't it a travesty that in the poorest state of India, Bihar, not s bag of wheat or paddy is procured? Add Bengal, Assam, Orissa and others. Let's make no mistake about this. MSP is a subsidy. Anything so much above market price is a subsidy. Last year the MSP for wheat was Rs 1,900 a quintal when the market price was Rs 1,300. Some states corner it because they are close to Delhi and the far corners get the hindmost.
The only thing I approve of this agitation is because the target for now is Modi.
Procurement by corporates is a bit of red herring. Corporates already procure. Name it they are there. Nestles, Pepsi, Britannia, Parles, ITC, the noodle makers, refined atta packers, branded rice etc. What will Ambani procure and how much more for the Reliance Retail operation? The cronyism will only work in telecom and natural resources, which the government allocates.
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*Well-known policy analyst, former adviser to Union finance ministry. Source: Author’s Facebook timeline

Comments

Unknown said…

> The only thing I approve of this agitation is because the target for now is Modi.
Well said!

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