Source: The Hitavada      Date: 14 Sep 2018 14:26:55

MEDIA and political commentators may call the announcement of a new scheme by the Central Cabinet to ensure minimum support price (MSP) for various farm produce as an election time sop to enlarge the ruling party’s constituency, but the fact remains that the decision is of immense importance for the farming community and therefore welcome. Everything cannot be looked through the prism of political gains and losses. Similarly the Central Cabinet’s Wednesday’s decision is a long over due one that will go a long way in ensuring remunerative prices for agricultural produce, based on cost of production, a phenomenon totally absent from agricultural pricing mechanism in the country with market forces exploiting helplessness of the tiller.

The country is witness to the consequences of such uneconomic pricing practice prevalent in the agriculture sector. As a result of the mismatch between cost of production and pricing in the market yard, the economics of the farmer has gone haywire, making farming an uneconomic proposition as he is unable to recover even the input cost, leave alone his and his family’s labour invested, day in and day out. It is not surprising that a majority of farmers are reeling under the burden of debt, unable to repay the loans taken at exorbitant rates of interest from private moneylenders and other sources. It is, therefore, no surprise that farmers resort to the extreme step of committing suicide in several parts of the country, with Maharashtra leading, registering highest number of suicides.

If non-recovery of input costs is one phenomenon, another phenomenon that has proved to be back-breaking is the fickleness of the nature. The monsoon is invariably either scanty or surfeit. In both cases the fate of the crops is unpredictable. In both cases the farmer is at the receiving end, staring at the loss of expenditure made on inputs and his hard labour, apart from loss of livelihood for the whole year.

If there is a bountiful crop, then it is the turn of the sharks in the market to exploit the farmer. Though the Government has been announcing minimum support prices for some crops like wheat and rice for the last few years, that has not solved the problem of the farmer as the market is always looking to purchase farmers’ produce below the MSP. Though the Government has been procuring foodgrains at support prices, its procurement has limitations, leaving the farmer at the mercy of market forces. It is in the light of this that the latest decision of the Central Cabinet is important and could provide much needed relief to the harried farmer.

Prime Minister Mr. Narendra Modi has assured that the Government would take measures to double the farmers’ incomes in the next three-four years. Wednesday’s Cabinet decision seems to be part of the plan. Under the new policy for procurement of foodgrains from farmers the Government has made substantial monetary allocations as promised in the annual budget.

Under the new procurement policy, named Pradhan Mantri Annadata Aay Sanrakshan Abhiyan (PM- AASHA) the farmer is assured of remunerative prices for his produce. Under PM-AASHA states have been given the liberty to choose from three schemes to undertake procurement when prices fall below the MSP, thereby insulating the farmer from the fluctuations in the market. The Government has also enhanced the credit line for procurement agencies by providing Government guarantee of Rs. 16,550 crores. Thus the Central Government has ensured that procurement of farm produce would not be constrained by paucity of funds. This should be a welcome news for the toiling farmer as his dependence on market forces would be lessened. In the light of new crop season, the decision is well-timed.