To what extent is PSM a legal right? Farmers talk to Kisan Sansad
While Prime Minister Narendra Modi was busy touting Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana, Kisan Sansad (parallel parliament organized by farmers in Jantar Mantar) addressed a serious issue: the minimum support price (MSP) can it become a legal right?
There were 200 new farmer representatives and six hours to answer this question. But they got a little help too. Sansad had invited two economists and agricultural policy experts – Devinder Sharma and Dr Ranjit Singh Ghuman – to talk about the issue.
“Globally, farmers are in crisis and the reason is falling prices and market manipulation by corporate giants. Hence the demand for MSP as a legal right and secure income, a new path not only for farmers in India, but also for the world, ”said Sharma.
Sharma is a strong supporter of the MSP being a legal right and had traveled from Chandigarh just to address Kisan Sansad in Delhi. “Instead of adopting a failed American agricultural model in India, the Indian Farmer Revolution should export ‘PSM or parity price as a legal right” to American policymakers. Once that happens, no business will ever be able to exploit farmers, whether in India or the United States, ”he said.
The protesting farmers warmly applauded Sharma’s suggestion. Surinder Singh of Haryana defied the Modi government after the noise died down. “Give us the MSP for just two years and every farmer in the country will be debt free. The government has deliberately caged us. With MSP, we will be free.
But farmers across the country do not have the same luck as those in Haryana or the Punjab. BL Verma, a surgeon from Pratapgarh, Uttar Pradesh, told Sansad a dark story. “In our region, farmers had not even heard of the MSP. Most of them are small farmers who have maybe 10 quintals to sell at most. However, the purchasing centers are closed to them. After we protested, I was in jail for 19 days, and after that, only 1% of the total lean rice produced in our area was purchased. On paper, however, the government claims record buying is happening. “
“Thanks to the peasant revolution, the farmers of the UP now know the MSP”, he added.
Rajvir Singh from Madhya Pradesh told another story: “When we have the crops the prices are always low, but suddenly once our crop hits the market the price quadruple. He was referring to soaring soybean prices. “The situation is so bad that the farmers did not even have soybeans. The market has taken everything and we are not in a position to buy it back. The MSP is like the legal right is the only solution.
Farmers also feared that with the APMC mandis gone, the MSP will be difficult to implement, and with it the public distribution system (PDS) will be redundant. Ram Sahu, another MP farmer, said: “The MSP and the PDS will die with the three agricultural laws, Indian agriculture can only be saved if the MSP becomes a legal right. “
It was now lunchtime, and a treat on the way. The representatives ate dal and vegetables in the langar. With a full stomach, the deliberations continued.
There was only the question of “how” left and Dr Ranjit Singh Ghuman, an economics professor who has devoted his life to agrarian issues, tackled it. “The first step is to give legal and constitutional status to the Agricultural Costs and Prices Commission (CACP). It would be on par with the Election Commission or the Finance Commission. Then we need to have at least five representatives of farmers as members and not just neoclassical economists, ”he said. He said at length that the CCPA should be an independent body with powers. But that was not all.
“The PSM should become a legal right in parliament, which no future government can also override. The government through E-nam, etc. should give purchase guarantees and expand its role in the interest of farmers. After all, we are a welfare state, ”he added. Ghuman also stressed the need for strong laws against food cartels, so that the American style of oligopolies does not take root in India. “India is still our farmers, if we betray them, we betray our country.”
PSM as a legal right is a litmus test for the Modi government. Are they going to use their majority government to work for 70% of Indians or look into agro-dollars? Farmers already know which way the winds are blowing.
Indra Shekhar Singh is an independent political analyst and writer and also the former director of the National Seed Association of India.