Fixing Kharif procurement price

Ninety years ago, in 1928, the Royal Commission on Agriculture in its report pithily commented: “The Indian peasant is born in debt, lives in debt and bequeaths the indebtedness to his successors.” Nearly a century later, and seventy years after Independence, has the situation changed? The answer is an emphatic “No.” In retrospect, it seems the peasants were in a relatively better position then. They only ‘bequeathed’ their loans to their offspring. Farmers’ suicide had not become as endemic as it is today, so much so that the newspaper reader today only casts a casual glance at the report and then indifferently turns to another news item. Farmers’ suicides do not cause even a momentary feeling of unease in the urban Indian’s impervious mind.
The attitude of the desi rulers to the farmers’ distress remains as casual as of yore. The crisis in agriculture and the distress of the farmers do not urge them to take a long-term view and come with evolving a scheme for a long-term solution. In March this year, the Government announced that peasants would be given a minimum support price of 50 per cent more than their cost of production. That peasants nowhere in the country are being paid at this rate is common knowledge. .Now the Prime Minister has repeated the same announcement three months later. It is anybody’s guess whether the promise will be implemented now.  If past experience is any guide then the farmers have very little to hope for.
Agriculture contributes about 18 per cent to the GDP but it accounts for about 60 per cent of the total workforce in the country. Agriculture is being forced to sustain more people than it can. The need is to create alternative employment for the surplus people who are forced to depend on agriculture. This requires job creation on a large scale. Today, employment is shrinking rather than growing. This is the crux of the problem. By fixing MSP at fifty per cent of the production cost the living standard of the peasant will remain at the same level as it is now. In fact it will fall as inflation raises prices of all consumer goods other than agricultural inputs. Loan waiver is no permanent solution to the problem. The problem is to make agriculture profitable. Otherwise the farmers will be forced into indebtedness again and again. The problem requires a holistic approach and solution. No government is either willing or interested to go to the root of the problem. What are offered are temporary palliatives like one-time loan waiver.

Sunday, 1 July, 2018