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Not bullets, prices please

Not bullets, prices please
Highlights

Instead of blaming it on the anti-socials and opposition, the BJP governments in Madhya Pradesh or at the Center should focus on delivering the electoral promise to implement the recommendations of M S Swaminathan-led National Farmers Commission. In a democracy, the opposition is bound to exploit the failure of government. None can escape politicisation of any issue, especially if it has political

Instead of blaming it on the anti-socials and opposition, the BJP governments in Madhya Pradesh or at the Center should focus on delivering the electoral promise to implement the recommendations of M S Swaminathan-led National Farmers Commission. In a democracy, the opposition is bound to exploit the failure of government. None can escape politicisation of any issue, especially if it has political implications.

The core issue is why the farmers are agitating. Not just in Madhya Pradesh, farmers continue to protest in other states like Maharashtra, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh etc., independent of the party in power. The political system should realise that the simmering discontent is due to sharp fall in prices of agricultural commodities. The farmers are not even getting their cost of production, making agriculture a negative economic proposition.

The Minimum Support Price (MSP) mechanism has to be developed, protected and implemented effectively across the country. MSP of crops needs to keep pace with the rising input costs. The government needs to ensure that both the farmers (who also constitute the majority of consumers) and the urban consumers get a fair deal.

We will witness neither a second green revolution nor much progress in dry land farming unless farmers get assured of remunerative prices for their produce. The agrarian distress is, therefore, not just a problem of peasantry. The protracted agrarian distress can lead to economic deceleration and the nutritional security of the people would be endangered.

Both universal PDS and enforcing MSP throughout the country for the selected crops are essential for imparting dynamism to agriculture. The MSP should be at least 50% more than the weighted average cost of production. The “net take home income” of farmers should be comparable to those of civil servants.

These recommendations of MS Swaminathan Commission should be implemented forthwith. The scope of the MSP programme should be expanded to cover all crops of importance to ensure food and income security for small farmers. Arrangements should be made to ensure MSP at the right time and at the right place.

A Market Price Stabilisation Fund should be established jointly by Central and State governments and financial institutions to protect farmers during periods of violent fluctuations in prices. An Agriculture Risk Fund also should be set up to insulate farmers from risks arising from recurrent droughts and other weather aberrations.

Importing agricultural commodities is nothing but importing unemployment in India as 49 per cent depend on this sector for their livelihood. The amplitude of fluctuation in agricultural prices has widened with Indian agriculture integrating with global market.

The government should design its import policy to insulate the Indian farmer from this unprecedented market shocks. The middlemen play havoc with agricultural markets thus endangering the food security of the consumer and the income security of the farmer. These machinations need to be checked.

Empty rhetoric cannot placate the angry farmer. The half-hearted poll-eve promise cannot fool the peasant forever. Bullets cannot scare them away. Farmers today need solidarity, even if it is for political self-aggrandisement.

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