Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar on Monday told the Lok Sabha that the Union Cabinet has approved an increase in Minimum Support Price or MSP of six crops. His announcement came as farmers stepped up their protests against the Narendra Modi government’s contentious agriculture bills and accused the Centre of playing into the hands of big corporates to compromise their interests.
The MSP hike ranges from Rs 50 to Rs 300, Tomar told Parliament. The support price for wheat, a key crop in Punjab and Haryana, has been increased by Rs 50 a quintal and will be Rs 1,975 per quintal this season. Meanwhile, barley support price has been increased by Rs 75 per quintal and the revised price will be Rs 1,600. The minimum support price for gram has gone up by Rs 225 and is now Rs 5,100. Lentil MSP has been increased by Rs 300 per quintal to Rs 5,100. Similarly, the MSP for mustard and safflower is now Rs 4,650 and Rs 5,327 respectively.
Tomar said the government has always maintained that MSP along with Agricultural Produce Market Committee mechanisms will continue and accused the Opposition parties of spreading false propaganda. Some Congress MPs walked out of the Lok Sabha after Tomar’s announcement.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has also repeatedly assured farmers that the minimum support price system will not be scrapped. After Tomar’s announcement, Modi said that the higher MSP will empower farmers and contribute to doubling their income. “Increased MSP, along with the series of agriculture reforms passed by Parliament will ensure dignity and prosperity of farmers,” he tweeted. “Crores of farmers will benefit from this.”
Earlier in the day, Modi said the farm bills were “historic and necessary” for the country to move forward in the 21st century. “These people [those opposing the farm bills] are also misleading farmers on MSP...but I want to make it clear that MSP will continue to function like before,” he added.
Meanwhile, BJP president JP Nadda said the government’s decision to hike the minimum support price of various crops has exposed those “misleading” farmers over the agriculture bills and demanded that they should apologise.
“The central government has not only increased the MSP but also hiked procurement at MSP to ensure that farmers get their labour cost,” he tweeted. “Those who were misleading farmers without any fact has been exposed. They should now seek apology from our food producing brothers and sisters.”
‘Mockery of farmers’ protest,’ says Punjab chief minister on MSP hike
However, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh said it was a “paltry” hike and termed it as a “cruel joke” on farmers, PTI reported.
“This is callous,” he said in a statement. “They have made a mockery of the farmers’ protests over the farm bills, which by all accounts will eventually pave the way for ending the MSP system and abolish the Food Corporation of India.”
Singh said if the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government at the Centre thought it would appease the protesting farms with this “trifling” hike, then they clearly did not understand the situation. “You can’t just throw crumbs at someone who may be on the verge of losing his livelihood as a result of your shameful actions,” he added.
The farmers have been asking for a written guarantee that MSP will not be tampered with, but the Centre has made a “measly” offering to them, said the Punjab chief minister. “They want to be secure about their livelihood, which in any case has been progressively declining due to the Centre’s ‘anti-farmer’ policies over the past six years,” he said.
Two of the three controversials Bills on agriculture reforms are set to become law after being passed by the Rajya Sabha on Sunday amid scenes of pandemonium. The three bills are – The Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill.
Critics say that these new agricultural policies will lead to farmers losing out on guaranteed purchase prices for their crops, to the benefit of large corporations.
Rajya Sabha Chairperson M Venkaiah Naidu on Monday suspended eight legislators from Opposition parties for a week of the Parliament’s Monsoon Session for their “unruly behaviour” in the Upper House on Sunday during the debate on these bills.