Wednesday, December 8, 2021
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Focus shifts to MSP

By Abhijit Roy

The government may have announced the withdrawal of all three controversial agriculture laws, but there is no sign of the end of the farmers’ agitation. Farmers’ organizations say that until these laws are formally repealed in Parliament, the agitation will not end. But an even bigger demand is now to make the Minimum Support Price (MSP) legal. Farmer organizations are not going to budge on this. The way the government decided to withdraw all the three agriculture laws, the government did not promise to make a law on the issue of MSP with clarity, but to make the MSP effective, the government has promised to form a big committee, in which Apart from the representatives of the Centre and the states, representatives of farmers’ organizations and experts related to the agriculture sector will be kept. Clearly, the issue of MSP is much more complicated. Otherwise, why would the government have failed to announce even law on MSP? Therefore, it has to be seen that what steps the government takes now and what strategy the farmers’ organizations adopt. Surprisingly, to date, no such decision has been taken regarding MSP, so that the farmers are seen to be satisfied. One of the arguments that have been made about MSP so far is that today there is no food crisis in the country and if a law is made on MSP, then buying and storing the produce will become a crisis for the government. However, due to the lack of a storage system, there is a problem of rotting grain in huge quantities. It has also been said that if MSP becomes law, then only big farmers will take produce from small farmers and sell them to the government and this will put small farmers in more trouble. If seen, only small farmers are in trouble. The benefits that have been counted for small farmers in the new agricultural laws are also not found less doubtful to the farmers. The question is, so what? What is the solution when farmers do not have faith in the government and the government is finding it difficult to enact legislation on MSP? Significantly, India is still an agricultural country. The majority of the population, especially the rural population, is dependent on agriculture and allied activities. Among the farmers, more than eighty per cent of the population consists of small and marginal farmers. The big farmers are not more than six-seven per cent. The number of middle-class farmers should also be considered in the range of 10 to 15 per cent. In such a situation, whatever agriculture laws are made in the country, the emphasis should be on small farmers. If the rich farmers continue to get the benefit of laws, then what will the small farmers do? The government kept on claiming that the new laws would prove to be freeing small farmers from the middleman system. But the farmers fear that they will fall into the trap of industrialists by leaving the middleman system. The government should ensure that there should be transparency in the initiatives taken now regarding the problems of agriculture and farmers. The way efforts were made to impose agricultural laws in Parliament without debate and by bringing ordinances, the result was that farmers lost their faith in the government. It needs to be returned now and not to seek political benefits under the guise of farmers.

(Author is a columnist. The views expressed are personal opinion of the author. He can be reached at abhijit@tatanagar.com.)

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