The red wave of protesting farmers that Maharashtra witnessed last week was just a beginning as India is set to witness more such marches across India in the coming days. While the farmers who gheraoed the Devendra Fadnavis government have now left Mumbai, state assemblies elsewhere also will begin to witness MSP (Minimum Support Price) Satyagraha marches.
“The recent Nashik-Mumbai march of farmers shows the large-scale dissatisfaction, including adivasi farmers, for the government. MSP Satyagraha is designed in true spirit of Gandhian Satyagraha for collective discovery of truth about MSP,” said Yogendra Yadav, president of political outfit Swaraj India.
The MSP Satyagraha will be launched from Yadgir in Karnataka on March 15. They will march from mandi to mandi to raise awareness about the legal right of MSP. Major agricultural production hubs of of south India like Kurnool in Andhra, Suryapet and Kodad in Telangana, Tamil Nadu, and Karnataka will be covered by the satyagraha. In north India, farmers in states like Rajasthan, Haryana, Uttarakhand, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra will be similarly launching satyagraha marches from major agri-hubs. Recently, Rajasthan saw farmers agitate over their right to land and for better crop prices from the Vasundhara Raje government.
The agitations seek to draw attention not just from Prime Minister Narendra Modi but also from various state governments. At the core is the issue of farmers, remunerative price and compelling governments to honour promises already made to farmers.
Yadav and his party are part of an all-India alliance of farmer organisations under the platform Akhil Bharatiya Kisan Sangharsh Samity (AIKSS)—a federation of 256 farmers organisations across the nation. The AIKSS has been campaigning for government recognition of the 2006 report for fixing farmers' remuneration released by the famous M.S. Swaminathan Commission. The demand has, however, been left pending by both the UPA and the Narendra Modi-led governments so far.
Recently, a study by the agriculture ministry had found that farmers of 27 crops, in particular, had either suffered crop failure or were victims of unprecedented price crashes in markets. “Chana farmers alone are likely to see a loss of Rs 6,087 crore this year due to loss of crops,” said Yadav.
With traders and middlemen purchasing from farmers at prices far lower than the government-fixed MSP rates, tempers have only been rising among growers.
“Farmers in Telangana are particularly vulnerable. The KCR government seems to have woken up of late about the crisis and is sloganeering hard on farmers' issues. On ground, many schemes announced are showing no result. Tur and Bengal gram is being sold at Rs 1,000 below MSP,” said M. Kodandaram, chairman of the all-party Telengana Political (Raithu) Joint Action Committee (T-JAC), and a member of AIKSS.
Notably, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley's 2018 budget speech had laid special emphasis on the central government’s commitment to ensure higher MSP to the farmers. It had promised that the prices of all kharif crops covered under MSP would be fixed at cost plus 50 per cent.
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However, experts have clarified this to be an overstatement by Jaitley. The budget, while calculating farmers' cost, had not considered cost of farmers' labour, a crucial flaw that could lead to under fulfillment of Modi's promise to his rural electorate.
The finance minister, and subsequently the prime minister, also admitted that increasing MSP is not adequate and it is more important that farmers should get full benefit of the announced MSP.
For achieving this, the government promised to take special steps this year, to ensure that all farmers, get the MSP rates for their produce. Jaitley further promised that if prices at agriculture produce markets (APMC) is less than MSP, then the government shall purchase either at MSP or provide MSP to the farmers through some other mechanism.
Meanwhile, Niti Ayog, in consultation with the Centre and state governments, is exploring possibilities of putting in place a fool-proof mechanism so that farmers get adequate and a remunerative price. “It is time to test this promise as the marketing season for rabi crop 2018-19 has begun. An analysis of the marketing season of kharif crop 2017-18 had demonstrated that the farmers were forced to sell much below MSP and had incurred a total loss of at least Rs 32,702 crore,” said Avik Saha, convenor AIKSCC.
“It may be kept in mind that traditionally, farmers losses is lower in rabi marketing season than during kharif season,” Saha added. He pointed that the price trend of the current rabi crops like chana, rape seed, tur and others, have so far shown disappointing trends with prevailing prices much lower than the government-announced MSP rates of these crops. Procurement by states and agencies from farmers had also been slow this rabi harvest season.
Other prominent farmer organisations that will participate in the satyagraha are Raithu Swarajya Vedika (Andhra), National Alliance of People's Movements (NAPM), Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan (Rajasthan) and Kisan Sangharsh Samiti (Madhya Pradesh).
Schedule of Phase I of MSP Satyagraha
March 14: Yadgir (Karnataka)
March 15: Kurnool (Andhra)
March 16: Suryapet and Kodad (Telangana)
March 18,19: Sri Ganganagar (Rajasthan)
March 20: Rewari (Haryana)
March 21: Alwar (Rajasthan)
March 22: Nuh (Haryana)
March 25: Rudrapur (Uttarakhand)
March 26: Pratapgarh (Uttar Pradesh)