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Congress Questions Centre's Commitment to Assure Legal Protection for MSP

The Congress expressed reservations on April 20 about the BJP government's desire to offer legal guarantees for MSP on farm produce, claiming that the terms of reference of the committee formed in this regard have been weakened and that it will be unable to meet farmers' demands.

KJ Staff
Congress Questions Centre's Commitment to Assure Legal Protection for MSP
Congress Questions Centre's Commitment to Assure Legal Protection for MSP

Bhupinder Singh Hooda, a Congress leader and former Haryana chief minister, claimed during a press conference that the government's policies are driving farmers further into debt rather than doubling their wages by 2022, a promise made by the BJP that has yet to be achieved.

Hooda said the government's aim of doubling farmers' incomes has been shattered because they are not even receiving the minimum support price (MSP) for their produce, citing multiple instances where the Centre's policies are "not favourable" to the farming community. While the government is forgiving corporate non-performing assets (NPAs) worth billions of dollars, loans to farmers are increasing, pushing them deeper into debt.

"The terms of reference of the government's MSP committee have been diluted, and this committee will not be able to provide a legal guarantee for the minimum support price," he told reporters. "The government's intentions to provide legal security to MSP are dubious." If they intended to grant MSP legal validity, they could have done so right away and declared it," Hooda noted. "We do not believe this committee (of the government) will be able to give legal sanctity to MSP," stated the former Haryana chief minister. Farmers' organizations believe that because the panel's terms of reference have been weakened, it will be unable to provide a legal guarantee to MSP.

Hooda, who chaired the committee that looked into agricultural issues during the Congress's three-day plenary session in Raipur recently, said that if his party is elected, it will pass legislation guaranteeing MSP and making selling farm produce below it a punishable offence. "Farmers' incomes have not doubled, but their debt has increased." Farmers are becoming deeply in debt," Hooda asserted, claiming that farmer debt has increased from Rs 9.6 lakh crore in 2014 to Rs 23.44 lakh crore now. Hooda claimed that the Congress-led UPA had forgiven farmers' loans of Rs 72,000 crore. Some state governments have also waived farmer loans, but the BJP has done little to help farmers get out of debt.

The Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (Prime Minister's Crop Insurance Scheme), according to the top Congress leader, has proven to be a "utter failure" and a weapon in the hands of corporates for making big profits. He said that corporate organizations made Rs 40,000 crore in profits as a result of the crop insurance scheme's failure and stated that the Congress will ensure that only public sector companies are permitted to provide crop insurance. Hooda also stated that a revolving fund will be established to assist farmers in times of need.

Hooda quoted MS Swaminathan, who in his agriculture report advised granting MSP at 50% over the C-2 formula of input costs, saying, "If agriculture goes wrong, nothing else will have a chance to go right." According to the Congress representative, the budget for the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, PM Fasal Bima Yojna, PM Kisan Samman Nidhi, and food subsidies to the Agri sector has been substantially reduced under the BJP administration, demonstrating that the government does not care about farmers' welfare.

Hooda further alleged that fertilizer subsidies have been drastically reduced over the last eight years. "There has been a far lower percentage increase in the minimum support price of farm produce during the BJP government than there was during the UPA regime," he stated, adding that the pace of increase is now much lower, causing farmers to suffer.

He further stated that crop diversification has not occurred during the BJP administration. "Farmers' incomes have not doubled, but input costs have increased and doubled," he added, adding that fuel prices have doubled despite crude oil prices declining in the last eight years. Hooda also advocated for better cooperation between export policy and agriculture to guarantee farmers receive fair compensation for their produce.

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