The Left parties have called upon the Union government to withdraw its decision to decontrol the price of fertilizers and a new nutrient-based subsidy scheme, arguing that this would have “disastrous repercussions” for the cultivating peasantry, especially small and marginal farmers.
In a statement, the Communist Party of India (Marxist) pointed out that the move, coming in the wake of drought and floods in several parts of the country, would lead to a drastic reduction in acreage and output of major crops. The increase in the urea prices by 10 per cent would cause farmers more distress and the decontrol of the fertilizer prices would allow manufacturers to increase prices as they wished.
Charging the Centre with deciding to go in for the nutrient-based subsidy scheme without consulting peasant organisations and political parties, the CPI(M) said the argument that farmers were using excessive amounts of urea was baseless and aimed at placing the onus of soil degradation on the peasantry alone. “This systematic dismantling of extension services is not spoken about. Given the status of the extension services, the efficacy of the nutrient-based subsidy regime is also questionable.”
The All-India Forward Bloc apprehended large-scale hoarding, black-marketing and price rise, if fertilizer producers were given a free hand to fix the retail prices. It was reported that on average, 2,000 farmers were quitting agriculture daily, and farmer suicides were still continuing. “It shows all the schemes and packages have become paper tigers.”
The latest Economic Review by the Prime Minister’s Economic Advisory Council projected that agriculture would record a negative growth. The urea price increase and deregulation would force more farmers to quit agriculture and commit suicide, the party said.
Condemning the “anti-farmer move,” the All-India Kisan Sabha demanded that the government immediately withdraw the decision, or it would launch a protest.
The decision was a “serious attack on the interests of farmers, who are already facing an acute agrarian crisis,” the Sabha said. It would benefit the big fertilizer manufacturers while passing on the burden to farmers. It would adversely impact the production of major crops, especially grain.
The Congress, however, defended the decision. “What has emerged is a win-win situation,” it said. Its spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi said the urea prices were increased after eight years. Previously, there was no incentive for producing other kind of variants; now the producer had the incentive to increase the nutrient value.