Farm bills: Govt ups rabi MSP to placate farmers, nationwide stir called

A farmer harvests wheat crop at a field in Amritsar | Photo: PTI
The Central government, to calm the anger of farmers at three pieces of legislation on agriculture, on Monday increased the minimum support price (MSP) of key rabi crops for the 2021-22 marketing season by 2-6 per cent, but the hike was termed inadequate by their associations.

The MSP of wheat, which is the main foodgrain of the rabi season, was raised by 2.6 per cent (Rs 50 a quintal) over that in the 2020-21 marketing season -- from Rs 1,925 to Rs 1,975 a quintal.

Wheat is the main crop in Punjab, Haryana, and western Uttar Pradesh, the hotbed of the agitation against the three Bills passed on Thursday by the Rajya Sabha.

In the 2019-20 marketing season, Punjab, Haryana, and Uttar Pradesh contributed over 70 per cent of the wheat purchased for the Central pool, estimated at 34.13 million tonnes.

The marketing season runs from April to March.

“This is a blatant attempt by the Central government to divert attention from the ongoing agitation, but I think this will further infuriate farmers because the wheat MSP has been hiked by just 2.6 per cent,” Subhash Chaudhury of the Bhartiya Kisan Union (BKU), a prominent group of farmers in North India, told Business Standard.

Chaudhury said the haste with which the Central government brought the three Bills in Parliament and got them passed during the pandemic revealed a deep-rooted conspiracy.

The farmers’ unions has called a nationwide bandh on September 25 against the legislation. The agitation will be supported by 10 major central trade unions that have termed the move “anti-people”.

Meanwhile, among other crops, the MSP of gram (chana) has been increased by 4.61 per cent in 2021-22 to Rs 5,100 per quintal, while that of mustard has been increased by 5.08 per cent to Rs 4,608 a quintal (see chart).

The government has set a production target of a record 301 million tonnes of foodgrains for the 2020-21 crop year, up 1.5 per cent over the previous year. The target was set at the National Rabi Conference, held on Monday

“Farmers across India will start sowing their rabi crops in the next few weeks and hence we have announced the MSP beforehand ... this should shut the mouths of those who were saying that MSP would be withdrawn once the farm Ordinances got passed in Parliament,” Ravishankar Prasad, Union information technology minister, told reporters while briefing them about the cabinet decision.

The Opposition, meanwhile, continued its belligerent stand against the agriculture legislation, with the Congress deciding to launch a nationwide agitation and start a campaign to collect the signatures of 20 million farmers and the poor against these bits of legislation.

Parties not in the ruling National Democratic Alliance and the Shiromani Akali Dal have decided to write to the President and meet him with the request of not signing the Bills.

Earlier, Vice-President Venkaiah Naidu, who is also Rajya Sabha chairman, suspended eight Opposition MPs, including Trinamool Congress leader Derek O’Brien and Sanjay Singh of the Aam Aadmi Party, for the remainder of the monsoon session of Parliament for their “unruly behaviour” during the passage of two farm Bills on Sunday.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, meanwhile, once again asserted that the Bills were the need of 21st century India and reassured farmers that the government purchase of their produce, coupled with the minimum support price mechanism, would continue.

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