New Delhi: Despite Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s announcement of withdrawal of the three farm laws, the farmer leaders are not willing to end their agitation. The Samyukta Kisan Morcha has written a letter to Modi putting forth six demands including law for MSP i.e. Minimum Support Price.

Zee News Editor-in-Chief Sudhir Chaudhary on Monday (November 22) discussed the politics being played over the demand for MSP.

The farmers who were opposing the farm laws till three days ago are now demanding from the central government to enact a law for MSP.

MSP means Minimum Support Price. This is the minimum price at which the government buys their crops from the farmers. This means that even if the prices of crops fall excessively, the farmers would get their due share. At present, the government gives MSP on 23 crops, of which wheat and paddy are the prominent crops.

The protesting farmers have demanded that MSP be given constitutional status in the country. That is, a law should be made to ensure the purchase of crops at MSP, failing which would attract punishment.

Notably, the MSP system has been in the country for the last 55 years. The question is: How can a system which could not reduce the losses of the farmers in 55 years, will solve their problems even if it is given legal status?

In 2015, a committee of the Government of India had said that only 6 percent of farmers get the benefit of MSP in the country. That is, 94 percent of the farmers never get any benefit from it. This happens for two reasons. Firstly, there are no government mandis in all the districts of the country where farmers can sell their crops. Secondly, the government does not have adequate capacity to hold the stock.

The system which is not beneficial for 94 percent of farmers, how can it be a means to rescue the farmers of the country from a perennial crisis? Even out of the six percent farmers who get the benefit of MSP, 85 percent are from Punjab and Haryana only. These are the farmers who are protesting for their demand for MSP guarantee.

If the central government gives the MSP a legal status, it will be forced to buy the 23 crops under the system. The annual expenditure on this will be around Rs 17 lakh crore. This is half of the annual budget of the entire country.

Even after so much expenditure, only 60 percent of farmers of the country will be able to sell their crops at MSP, according to a study. If the central government bought the crops of these 60 percent farmers on MSP even for just two years, the country could be on the verge of bankruptcy.

Instead of MSP, if the government gives income support to the farmers, this could be very effective. If the government starts giving Rs 10 thousand rupees annually to all small and big farmers, it could make a positive difference. A move like this would put a burden of only Rs 1.4 lakh crore on the public exchequer. MSP is not the answer to the farmers’ problems and reforms in the sector are long overdue.

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