Millennium Post

Below-MSP prices triggered MP farmers' tragedy

Despite bumper production in 2016-17, the procurement of agricultural produce below minimum support price and the the UP govt's decision to write off loans of about 1 lakh farmers led to farmers' protest in Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra. Experts have pointed out that farmers of Telangana and Punjab would also make smilar demands in coming days.

According to experts, the bumper production in 2016-17 after facing two consecutive drought years has turned out to be a bane instead of a boon for debt-ridden farmers. The predictions by Indian Metrological Department (IMD) of good monsoon for this year has also increased the worries of poor farmers of Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Punjab, Telangana, etc as they are now more concerned about getting production cost of their produce, the experts have opined.

"Following the announcement of bonus on pulses and kharif crops by the Centre, debt-ridden farmers took loans from different agencies to cultivate more, but it turned out to be the reason of their woes. Farmers were bound to sell their produce below minimum support price (MSP), which shattered their dreams of paying back the loans," said Gourav Vallabh, an economist.

Notably, farmers were forced to sell their tur at Rs 3,500 per quintal against the fixed MSP of Rs 5,050 for a quintal. Similarly, after investing Rs 4 to produce one kg of onions, the produce was sold at just 0.40 paisa per kg.

Vallabh further added that the state government's poor response to farmer's demands added fuel to the fire to their protest. "The NSSO report has stated that on an average every farmer's family has a debt of over Rs 47,000. So for a family having a monthly income of about Rs 6,400 paying huge debt is next to impossible. The farmers were hopeful that with the good harvest in the year 2016-17, they would pay their all dues, but it didn't happen as their agricultural produce were sold at very price," Vallabh said.

Expressing his views on the causes of farmers' protest former Agriculture Secretary Siraj Hussain said, "Demands for waiver of farmer loan based on the decision taken by the government of Uttar Pradesh are partly contributing to similar demands in other states. We can expect farmers of Telangana, Maharashtra and Punjab to also make similar demands in near future. However, the farmers' distress is not only due to this. Lower prices due to bumper production in 2016-17 are also responsible for farmers' woes."

Hussain is presently senior fellow at Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations (ICRIER).

However, Union Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh has condemned the incident of firing on farmers in Madhya Pradesh. Reacting to the incident, Singh said, "The incident of Madhya Pradesh is unfortunate. Those who are politicising it, they are not the well-wishers of either farmers or the country. The Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh is the only CM who has worked to protect the interests of farmers."

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