Govt. must pay price difference to farmers for 22 crops: Varun Gandhi

BJP MP’s MSP Bill estimates financial outlay of ₹1 lakh crore

December 12, 2021 08:13 pm | Updated 08:14 pm IST - NEW DELHI

File photo of Varun Gandhi.

File photo of Varun Gandhi.

Echoing the demand of farm unions, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MP Varun Gandhi has submitted a private member’s Bill in Parliament to guarantee minimum support prices for 22 crops, projecting a financial outlay of ₹1 lakh crore.

It would ensure that farmers get a 50% profit margin above the comprehensive cost of production, using the Swaminathan Commission’s formula, by mandating that the Government must pay the farmer the difference between the sale price and the set MSP rate.

‘Actionable piece of legislation’

“India’s farmers and her Governments have long debated the agricultural crisis, in and out of Commissions,” said Mr. Gandhi, in a tweet on Sunday, sharing a copy of his Bill. “The time has come for an MSP law. I’ve created and submitted to Parliament what I believe to be an actionable piece of legislation,” he said, adding that he would welcome any critique of his effort. He pointed out that apart from supporting farm incomes and reviving the rural economy, a legal guarantee of MSP would encourage crop diversification and reduce the environmental cost of agriculture.

Mr. Gandhi’s proposal comes a day after farmers returned home from a year-long protest on the borders of Delhi. He has previously deviated from his party’s position, and come out in support of the farm unions. While they achieved one major goal to repeal the three contentious farm reform laws, their other goal to get a legal guarantee of MSP for all farmers and all crops is still pending. For now, they have accepted the Centre’s proposal to set up a committee to discuss the issue, which will include leaders of the agitation as members.

Some of the farmers’ groups which participated in the agitation, along with Opposition political parties, had previously drafted a private members’ Bill on MSP which was introduced in the Lok Sabha in 2018 by then Swabhimani Paksha MP Raju Shetti and in the Rajya Sabha by CPI(M) MP K.K. Ragesh, but lapsed the next year. That Bill proposed that buying any crop below the MSP rate be made illegal and that any trader doing so face strict penalties. Congress, TMC, Shiv Sena, DMK, AAP, BJD and YSR Congress were among the parties which had pledged their support.

Only 14 private members’ Bills have actually become law, with the last such instance occurring in 1970.

Mr. Gandhi’s proposed legislation seeks to ensure that farmers get paid MSP rates for their crops within two days, irrespective of the buyer. “Any farmer who is not paid the guaranteed MSP by the trader for the sale of their agricultural commodities, shall be entitled to a compensation [amounting to] a value equal to the difference between the guaranteed minimum support price and the price obtained by the farmer within seven days of the matter being brought to notice by the aggrieved party,” says the Bill.

Additional financial outlay

The Bill estimates that the procurement of the entire produce of all 22 commodities at MSP rates would amount to ₹11 lakh crore. However, given that many farmers keep their crops for self-consumption, as well as the Government’s existing procurement and sale programme, Mr. Gandhi estimated that the required additional financial outlay would be ₹1 lakh crore from the Consolidated Fund of India.

The legislation aims to penalise traders who indulge in cartelisation or who abstain from purchasing a commodity with a view to violate farmers’ rights under the legislation, and use the collected penalties to compensate farmers instead. It envisages the establishment of a new Department for Guaranteed MSP Realisation to be headed by a decision-making body including three farmer representatives, two agricultural experts and one senior government official. Similar State-level committees would be empowered to implement the law in each State.

The Bill also calls for a network of procurement centres to be set up, with at least one for every five villages, the creation of sufficient storage capacity, and the stipulation that agricultural markets start the auction of all agricultural commodities at prices which are not lower than MSP.

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