The recent agitation of Farmers in Rajasthan and Maharashtra have made the Governments realise that immediate proactive steps have to be taken to tackle the problems of farmers but past experience shows that after making mouthful of promises, Governments do nothing tangible. Hence, the MSP Satyagraha is being launched to continue and strengthen the agitations that are springing up all over the country, so that the core issue of farmers, remunerative price, is brought to the fore and the Governments are compelled to honour promises already made to farmers.
The Finance Minister Arun Jaitley's budget speech of 2018 laid special emphasis on the Central Government's commitment to ensure MSP to the farmers. Jaitley announced and assured that his Government had already implemented (for majority of Rabi crops) and was going to further implement (for unannounced Rabi and Kharif crops) its electoral promise of ensuring prices that yield at least 50% returns over the cost of production. Farmers' Movements have already exposed this claim to be a case of sleight-of-hand. Mr. Jaitley has already admitted that the cost he was speaking about was not comprehensive C2 cost but partial cost known as A2 + FL.
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 and for achieving this, the Government was going to take special steps this year to ensure that all farmers actually get the MSP announced by the Government. The Finance Minister further promised that if prices at agriculture produce markets is less than MSP, then the Government shall purchase either at MSP or provide MSP to the farmers through some other mechanism; Niti Ayog, in consultation with Central and State Governments, shall put in place a fool-proof mechanism so that farmers will get adequate price for their produce.
Farmer activists said, "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 crores. It may be kept in mind that traditionally farmers losses is lower in Rabi marketing season then during kharif marketing season.:
They further claimed that so far the signals are not very good. In the first few weeks of this marketing season the prices of Bengal Gram (Channa) have fallen substantially below the MSP of Rs.4400 (MSP of Rs.4250+ Rs.150 bonus). The official Agmarknet data for the first week of March shows that the average modal price of Channa is anywhere between Rs. 800 to 1000 below the MSP, also substantially below the prices last year. Sadly much of this loss was avoidable as the Government knew about greater sowing acerage and expected bumper crop of Channa. Despite this, the Government allowed substantial quantity of Channa to be imported. In fact the import during April-November 2017 was 7.47 lakh tonne compared to 2.49 lakh tonne during the same months in 2016. So far, the state response has not been up to the mark.
Maharashtra has announced procurement of just 3 lakh tonnes against an estimated arrival of 19 lakh tonnes of Channa. MP's Bhavantar Yojna has run into difficulties. So far we know little about special measures that the Niti Ayog was to evolve to support the farmers. On the basis of an estimated arrival of 90 lakh quintals of Channa and the modal price as seen in the first 3 weeks of the present season, farmers may suffer loss of Rs.6087 crores on this crop alone !!* Two charts showing the losses already made with comparisons of previous year are provided as illustration.
The price situation of other crops is also a cause for concern. Rapeseed oil has also started arriving and is selling around 3,500 against the MSP of Rs. 4000 (MSP Rs.3,900 plus bonus of Rs. 100). Lentil (Masur) is selling between Rs. 3,200 to 3,800 against the MSP of 4,250.
Jai Kisan Andolan of Swaraj Abhiyan has taken up this challenge in collaboration with many other organisations from within All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee (AIKSCC) like Ryathu Joint Action Committee (Telangana), Raithu Swarajya Vedika (Andhra), National Alliance of Peoples Movements (NAPM), Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan (Rajasthan) and Kisan Sangharsh Samiti (Madhya Pradesh). An MSP Satyagraha is being launched from 14th March 2018 at Yadgir in Karnataka. In this Satyagraha, the plan is to travel from mandi to mandi and hold Kisan Darbar with twofold objectives:
1. To make farmers aware of the multiple ways in which they are looted and to raise demand for legal entitlement of fair MSP.
2. Check out whether farmers are able to get MSP that they have been assured of.