Saturday, April 13, 2024

MSP-for-all is treachery by anti-India forces

It is this season of Polls when a nexus emerges from the ratholes to make impossible demands on Centre. Anarchy anyway is the go-to method of incorrigibles. Months go in its preparation. Date of agitation is pre-decided. 

So it is with farmers’ agitation once again, the same descending on Delhi’s border from Punjab and Haryana, the same insane demand of MSPs-for-all-crops which we were subjected to despite the prevalent horror of Covid pandemic of those years. 

So let me quote the same again I had said in a piece way back in 2020 to refresh the memory of readers: 

“So what’s MSP?

MSP is the price at which the government purchases crops from the farmers. This was first announced way back in 1966-67. Green Revolution had brought in surplus in the agriculture market and the farmers needed to be saved from falling profits. Now of course this MSP extends to two dozen crops, announced at the beginning of each season of Rabi and Kharif.

So, if the crops have had a bumper harvest, the government purchases at the MSP to make up for the farmers as the surplus drives the market price down. The government decides on MSP after recommendations from state governments, ministries and dedicated Commission. There are other factors like drought and floods which matter.

So look at it this way: if the harvest is bumper, and the market price is low, the MSP would make up for the shortfall. Now keep this at the back of your mind: For the market price could be MANIPULATED.

And who manipulates market prices? 

Those who control market. 

In today’s India, the market is controlled by big mandis, who in turn is controlled by big farmers, who in turn are hand in gloves with the corrupt politicians and secessionist forces.

Here is the catch. 

There is only a certain percentage of crops which the government buys under the MSP. 

The farmers still have to go to mandis nearby for the rest of the crops which are controlled by middlemen at the behest of rich farmers and politicians. 

Invariably, that price is kept lower than MSP. 

A farmer still ends up as a loser.

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So get this straight: Farmers’ agitation and the demand for universal MSPs could be for anyone but farmers. 

It only fattens the caucus of big farmers and mandis, hand-in-gloves with corrupt politicians who naturally are at odds with the Modi government. 

It is this caucus which the Modi government had tried to break with the three Farm Bills which now stand repealed. 

Those bills had looked to free farmers’ from this caucus, to be free to sell his produce anywhere he deemed fit, and to bring in private investment to boost the returns from his land etc, etc. 

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There are some domestic, international and financial restraints which no government could overlook and yet bring MSP-for-all-crops legislation without dire consequences. 

Do you know that the Organisation of Economic Cooperation Development and the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (OECD-ICAIR) reported that farmers lost Rs 45 lakh crores (phew!) due to manipulated pricing between Rs 2000-2017?

Do you know what MSP does to India’s trade with other countries? Many have complained in the World Trade Organization (WTO) against India. MSPs are termed subsidies and trade-distorting, breaching the 10 per cent norm for subsidy on farm production, set down by the WTO.

Do you know that the Shanta Kumar Committee in 2015 reported that only 6 per cent of the MSP could be received by the farmers, that only a crore out of 14.5 crore farmers benefitted out of MSP?

Do you know that In 2016, NITI Aayog had revealed that only 10 percent of the farmers were aware of the right prices before the sowing season?

Do you know the market value of the total agriculture produce is Rs 10 lakh crore (FY20), including the 24 crops under the MSP purview.  For FY20, the total MSP procurement stood at Rs 2.5 lakh crore, that is 6.25 per cent of the total agriculture produce, and 25-odd per cent of the produce under MSP. 

Now if an MSP guarantee law was to be introduced, we are looking at an additional expense of Rs 10 lakh crore. To put it in perspective, the Centre has set aside Rs 11.11 lakh crore for infrastructure in the interim budget. To earmark Rs 10 lakh crore on MSPs from a total budget expenditure of Rs 45 lakh crore (FY25) would be a fiscal catastrophe. 

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Yet we have the spectacle of a discredited political party like Congress promising MSPs for all. It’s the same Congress, in power in 2010, which had rejected the Swaminathan Commission recommendations for remunerative prices in the Rajya Sabha (see below).

The newspapers have begun filling their drains by the outpourings of AAP, SP, TMC spewing venom against the Modi government in support of the farmers. 

The truth is: Demand for universal MSPs or to make it a legal guarantee is insane. Those who want it neither have the good of farmers nor India in mind. But be ready for a shrill extended noise in discourse till polls, likely violence on India’s highways, by this caucus of fake farmers-politicians-secessionists-media in a bid to derail the Modi government which is admired by majority of citizens. This caucus won’t hear you or me but let’s resolve we would have the last word when it’s Poll-Time in a few weeks time. 

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