Tag: India farmers

VIEWPOINT: Farmers are Spot On- Guaranteed MSP will make India stronger

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It will cost far less to ensure universal food security in India than the government’s Rs.17 lakh crore estimate.

Farmer unions have said that repealing the three new farm laws and giving a legal guarantee for Minimum Support Prices will enable India to give 15 instead of five kilos of food to households through the Public Distribution System under the National Food Security Act, 2013. The government has said that it will not repeal the three laws, nor would it be possible to provide a legal guarantee for minimum prices for all 23 crops because it will cost Rs.17 lakh crore.

The unions have correctly linked the issue of food security to agricultural production through an incentivised MSP, because that is exactly what led India to move towards self-sufficiency in food staples from the seventies on. And yet, only half the battle has been won. Grains still stockpile while hunger stalks the poor. Its integration with a universalised PDS is what can become the real face of an inclusive Indian nationalism.

The Green Revolution was launched to reach self-sufficiency in food and to get rid of our reliance on American food aid on humiliating terms. It was the farming fields of Punjab, Haryana and western Uttar Pradesh, the very epicenter of the current protests, that helped India move from a country with a begging bowl to an emerging important country.

The procurement, storage and public distribution systems from the Green Revolution period provided assured price incentives in the shape of MSP for rice, wheat and sugar and more importantly an expanding domestic market for food crops. Of the diverse array of food grains available across the country, only rice, wheat and sugar were provided from the ration shops in most states. The government procured grains to keep as buffer to ensure food security for Below Poverty Line households (i.e., the Targeted-Public Distribution System), which earlier covered the entire population as the more ambitious Universal Public Distribution System.

Since price setting and procuring of this volume of food grains had several components including MSP, the total economic costs which set the price for distributing food grains from fair price shops (i.e., Central Issue Price) lower than market price was the difference between the economic costs borne by the government and the recovery through the central issue price channel; which becomes the subsidy for ensuring food security.

Price setting and procuring of this volume of food grains would consist of quite a few economic costs including MSP. There is a lower than market price for distributing food grains from fair price shops, that is the Central Issue Price. The difference between the economic costs borne by the government and the recovery through the central issue price channel is the subsidy for food security.

HOW MUCH DOES FOOD SECURITY COST?

Let us take the MSP issue first, which is in the eye of the storm. MSP remains notional until the crop is actually procured, so calculating declared MSP prices for all crops at Rs.17 lakh crore is misleading. This is because mostly rice and wheat are procured through it, and that too just a percentage [between 40-50%] of the total production of these two crops. MSP sometimes also acts as a price stabiliser in the market. Thus, the government procuring a small percentage of the crop [e.g., 25% of pulses production] can lead to stabilisation of the larger market price.

India has been producing way over the buffer stock norms for the past few years, and hence at best only 30-40% of this cost will actually be borne by the government. This would range between Rs.5-7 lakh crore. Providing 5 kilos per household to two-thirds of the population under the NFSA should cost between Rs.1.8 lakh crore and Rs.2 lakh crore.

Of course, some of this cost will be recovered through selling at PDS shops at the Central Issue Price. So, accepting the farmers’ demands at the current level of implementation of the NFSA would not cost more than Rs.7-8 lakh crore. In fact, the government can universalise PDS or increase the provision of every household from five to 15 kilos at an additional cost of not more than Rs.2-3 lakh crore. In other words, an annual expenditure of Rs. 7-8 lakh crore would meet the farmers’ demand and ensure agricultural production and food security for the poor.

Additionally, if the government cuts down on its import bill of certain items, such as pulses, surely, we can be atmanirbhar in terms of daily consumption items which the farmers could grow in plenty under assured prices.

WHERE WOULD THE MONEY COME FROM?

The oft-repeated clamour in the corridors of power is that this will enlarge the fiscal deficit. This argument is regularly brandished whenever it comes to subsidies in terms of food, basic education, health, housing or employment, i.e., anything which strengthens the safety net for the poor.

However, alternatives exist, and to be able to imagine these alternatives is the beginning of atmanirbharta. Indeed, a road map for this has become distinctly more visible during the last year of a near-complete lockdown and comatose economy. It is no secret that even in a recession, where global and local GDP contracted at an unprecedented rate, the stock markets grew by 12-13%.

The wealth of the top few has increased even in a year of a pandemic and lockdown, and the turnover of the stock market for a single day in November 2020 was to the tune of Rs.1.47 lakh crore—the amount required annually for the NFSA.

As on 11 January, the investor wealth (market capitalisation) measured by the Bombay Stock Exchange stood at Rs.196 lakh crore. Surely a less than 1% atmanirbharta tax would be a drop in this ocean?

Could not the government levy a mere 0.5% turnover tax on transactions in the stock market and fetch Rs.4-5 lakh crore annually, while an atmanirbharta tax at 1% would cover more than all the costs that the farmers’ demands entail, plus enormous food security to poor India? There are also other sources to tap, such as the liquidation of non-performing assets of nationalised banks through properly formulated bankruptcy laws, higher taxes on wealth of the multibillionaires, and so on.

Real national economic sovereignty should begin with such steps. The farmers’ movement has opened up the possibility of such a solution, while the government remains the problem. The Central Vista of a larger expensive Parliament building or even the tallest Rama temple is no substitute for this solution, even with the support of media or paid economic pundits. Because you can fool some people for some time but not all people for all times. This indeed is the unmistakable message resonating far and wide with the growing farmers’ movement.

The author is an associate professor of Global Studies, Ambedkar University Delhi. The views are personal.

Source- newsclick. in

Indian farmers’ organizations reject Supreme Court intervention, will continue protest

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Farmers in India launched a major protest against the three laws towards the end of November and have been camped in the outskirts of New Delhi.

India’s Supreme Court stayed the implementation of the three farm laws that have led to huge protests across the country. It also formed a committee to hold discussions. However, farmers’ organizations say the onus is on the government to repeal the laws.

Farmers’ movements in India have rejected the Supreme Court’s intervention on the protests that have been raging across the country against the farm laws. On Tuesday, January 12, the Supreme Court of India, ordered a stay in the implementation of the three farm laws, until “further orders”. The court also constituted a four-member committee to come up with a mechanism to resolve the impasse between the Narendra Modi-led central government and the protesting farmers.

Farmers’ organizations launched a major round of protests on November 26 against the laws which were rammed through parliament by the Modi government in September. The farmers fear these laws will drive down the prices they get for their products and increase the role of corporates in agriculture. Tens of thousands of farmers have been camped on the outskirts of the capital New Delhi demanding the repeal of the laws.

The Supreme Court made the decision while hearing a batch of petitions against the farm laws, on the violation of the rights of the protesters and some also pertaining to the farmers’ blockade at major entry points to Delhi. The order, passed by a bench chaired by the Chief Justice of India, comes after eight rounds of talks over the past three months between farmers’ organizations and the government yielded no resolution.

While the stay order on the three laws was received with mixed reactions, farmers’ groups are extremely wary of court-mediated negotiations. Organizers and leaders of the protest continue to assert that they will not back down until the three laws are repealed.

Balbir Singh Rajewal, the president of the Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU), one of the protesting groups, said, “The government wants to shift its pressure by forming a committee via Supreme Court. But we won’t let it happen. And therefore, we will not talk to any such committee. The laws have been brought by the government, not by the court. Therefore, we will continue talking with the government panel only till the legislation are repealed. The government cannot escape from its accountability.”

In a statement released on Monday by the Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM), a coalition of over 40 farmers’ groups, movement leaders have refused to participate in the newly-formed committee’s deliberations.

“While all organizations welcome the suggestions of the Hon’ble Supreme Court to stay the implementation of the farm laws, they are collectively and individually not willing to participate in any proceedings before a committee that may be appointed by the Hon’ble Supreme Court,” read the statement.

The All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee (AIKSCC), an umbrella body of over 250 farmers’ and peasants’ unions participating in the SKM, released a statement shortly after the court passed its order, reiterating the movement’s stand. The statement pointed out that the apprehensions held by the movement were vindicated with the formation of the committee and the four people appointed for it.

“It is clear that the Court is being misguided by various forces even in its constitution of a committee,” the AIKSCC statement said. “These are people who are known for their support to the 3 Acts and have actively advocated for the same.”

The members include two economists, Ashok Gulati and P. K. Joshi, both of whom are known for their advocacy of free-market economics, and the liberalization of India’s agricultural sector. The other two, Anil Ghanwat and Bhupinder Singh Mann, are leaders of farmers’ groups that have for long advocated for a technocratic and private capital-led development of the agricultural sector.

Surjit Singh Phool, a farmer leader participating in the protests, stated that all four members “have declared positions in support of the agricultural laws.” He also added that the “court itself has given a good reason to the protesting farmers to boycott this committee”

Meanwhile, the number of farmers camped at the border of Delhi has only grown over the past few weeks, with thousands more pouring in from across the country. Recently, groups of farmers have arrived from far away states like Odisha, Andhra Pradesh, and Kerala.

The women’s movement has also participated in large numbers from across the country, with a large delegation of women farmers from the states of Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, and Punjab being mobilized under the umbrella of All India Democratic Women’s Association and Centre of Indian Trade Unions.

At the same time, protesting farmers are also gearing up for intensifying the struggle across the country. Responding to the court’s order, Rakesh Tikait, leader of one of SKM constituent Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU), stated that his group will continue with the planned protests in India’s most populous state of Uttar Pradesh.

The AIKSCC statement also added that protests “will continue as per the earlier announcement on January 13, 18, and 23. Farmers wish to interact with the government, not engage with the Supreme Court, where farmers did not present themselves. So no comment on it, no offense to it.”

Farmers’ groups are also planning a major show of strength on January 26, India’s Republic Day, with a Kisan Parade (Farmers’ Parade). Protesting farmers are expected to ride their tractors into the national capital, in a parallel Republic Day parade coinciding with the official parade to be held by the Indian government.

Source- PD,January 12, 2021

Indian govt. defends itself as ‘pro-farmer’ with 106 pages E-booklet, as farmers’ stir continues

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By SAT News Desk

The Indian farmers’ agitation against three new farm laws passed by the Indian government has been on for many days and thousands are rallying on the outskirts of Delhi. The mainly Punjab, Haryana, and UP farmers have been joined by others from many other states across India. There have been solidarity actions with farmers across many countries. Many rounds of talks have not succeeded.

To counter the rising tide of farmers the Indian government is taking many steps and one of them has been 106 pages of an E-booklet emailed globally.

Attached below is the booklet:

Putting-Farmers-First