Last Updated: February 12, 2024, 10:25 IST
Police barricades put up at Ghazipur border in view of farmers’ ‘Delhi Chalo March’ in New Delhi on Monday. (PTI)
The government’s stand is straightforward — that it is committed to offering MSP for crops while farmers are free to sell their produce to the government procurement agencies at MSP or in the open market, whichever is advantageous to them
Demanding a law on Minimum Support Price (MSP), farmers from Punjab are threatening to be at Delhi’s doorstep again, three years after the Narendra Modi government repealed the three farm laws and promised an effective MSP regime.
Sources in the government point to a striking comparison to stress that the Modi government intends to favour farmers — it has spent nearly Rs 2.28 lakh crore in 2022-23 to procure food grains at MSP, up nearly 115 per cent from 2014-15 when the government had spent Rs 1.06 lakh crore on buying crops at MSP. In terms of quantity too, MSP-based procurement of food grains has increased from 761.40 lakh metric tonnes in 2014-15 to 1062.69 lakh metric tonnes in 2022-23, data shows.
“At present, there is no proposal for the next five years before the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare to frame a long-term MSP policy,” the government told Parliament on February 6 in a written answer.
Farmers are citing this to go on a protest — demanding a ‘law on guaranteed MSP’ — which the government has not promised so far. A committee set up in 2022 by the government also has its terms of reference limited to the point of how to “make MSP more effective and transparent”.
The government’s stand is straightforward — that it is committed to offering MSP for crops while farmers are free to sell their produce to the government procurement agencies at MSP or in the open market, whichever is advantageous to them.
The MSP Rise
The government fixes MSP for 22 mandated crops and oilseeds. In the 2018-19 budget, the Modi government announced the predetermined principle to keep MSP at levels of one-and-a-half times the cost of production, leading to increase in MSPs for all mandated crops.
For example, the MSP in 2023-24 for paddy stands at Rs 2183 per quintal, up Rs 243 from 2021-22. The MSP for wheat in this financial year stands at Rs 2275, up Rs 250 from two years ago. The MSP for Jowar has risen by Rs 442 over the last two years, by Rs 469 for Ragi, and the rise in the MSP for cotton has been by Rs 894 to Rs 6620 for every quintal in the present financial year.
This, however, is not cutting ice with Punjab’s farmers who are insistent upon a law for MSP. The same has not been agreed by the government and is not possible in the present term as the 17th Lok Sabha session is over. The farmer unions are claiming that the committee set up by the government has not made much headway even after 35 rounds of meetings. They are threatening to lay siege to Delhi again on February 13 and police have decided to stop them at the Haryana-Punjab borders. Central ministers are planning to hold talks with them.