23
Nov

Farmers Protest: MSP Laws

   Posted by: aman   in Other

Day 363

Toll 675

MSP Law

That the farmers have decided not to leave the Morchas even after the PM’s assurance on repeal of draconian farm laws is indicative of the trust deficit in our society. This trust deficit is not new. All parties and governments have contributed to it through false promises and betrayals of promises over the last few decades. However, under the current regime the chasm has opened really wide.

In response to PM’s gesture, SKM has issued a letter to PM, made public to nation. It lists six demands. Among them are Electricity Bill, Air Commission Bill, both promised to not be introduced in Parliament last December 5th in multi-round talks between farmers and government. The government betrayed its verbal assurance. How then will people trust it?

There are demands to withdraw cases on thousands of farmers. In his speech, PM said he is repealing laws ‘in the interest of nation’. That means the laws were not in the interest of nation. Why then are farmers being charged with cases? There is a demand for removal and arrest of Minister of State Home Ajay Mishra Teni, the person behind the Lakhimpur Kheri mowing down of farmers. There is a demand for a permanent memorial to the 675 farmers martyred in the year long protests in the interest of the nation.

The biggest demand is to implement Minimum Support Price on 23 crops to all farmers in the country according to the Swaminathan Commission formula C2+50% proposed in 2007. The government has announced intention to set up a commission to look into the demand. However, there has been a commission already in 2011 headed by then Gujarat CM and now PM Modi. He had himself asked for the MSP formula to be implemented. BJP had promised to implement MSP in its election manifesto 2014. It betrayed its promise.

There are many details to an MSP framework but finally it all boils down to money and whether the government is willing to spend that money for the people of the nation. In short, both the Centre and state governments procure grains. The department of Food and Public Distribution is responsible for ensuring food security through procurement, storage, and distribution of food grains, and for regulating the sugar sector. The Consumer Affairs ministry controls prices of food products and issues MSP rates each season for relevant crops.

According to Punjab Agricultural University, the total money required by Food Corporation of India to pick up stock is about Rs 3 lakh crore per year. Public Distribution System does not exceed Rs 30,000 crore each year. About Rs 1.2 lakh crore is kept as buffer stock. The Central Govt needs to bear half of this cost, rest is on state governments.

Ask yourselves, how hard is it to ear-mark the funds for food? Unlike non-performing corporates and banks with non-performing assets which stand at total Rs 7 lakh crore and the government keeps writing them off, the agrarian sector has always been profitable. Even during the pandemic when all sectors tanked. Actually, the demand for MSP for all farmers all over the country is beyond economics. Food for poor and safeguard to debt-laden impoverished farmers – about 4 lakh farmer and labour suicides in last two decades – is a moral question. As a country we are 101/116 on Global Hunger Index. Our child malnutrition is at above 25 per cent. Our country’s need for food is urgent and can be met if the government implements MSP.

This is a call to ask the government who does it protect: the people of the nation or defaulting crony capitalists? Ask us: why do we elect governments? Why do we pay taxes?

As another winter approaches the protest sites, farmers gear up to keep staying on only to pressure the government, we must note no one is asking the government to implement MSP immediately. The farmers want the government to frame a law on MSP with provision for punishment to those who procure below MSP. The government can then set up a committee to design how the various government departments will work in tandem with each other which can take a few months. The farmers are patient, they can wait, but government needs to act.

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