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Modi has lit farm fire: Congress

The Opposition argued that there was a definite plan to undermine public procurement and promote private players who are not legally bound to pay the MSP
Congress communications chief Randeep Surjewala explained how the government was 'misleading' the farmers on MSP

Sanjay K. Jha   |   New Delhi   |   Published 23.09.20, 01:28 AM

The Congress on Tuesday fiercely contested Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s assertion that the farm bills had nothing to do with the mandi system and the minimum support price, arguing that there was a definite plan to undermine public procurement and promote private players who are not legally bound to pay the MSP.

The Congress MP from Fatehgarh Sahib in Punjab, Amar Singh, who had been chairman of the Food Corporation of India and knows agriculture trade in and out, said: “Mark my words, public procurement will be reduced drastically and the public distribution system will be weakened. They are implementing the recommendations of the Shanta Kumar Committee and the World Trade Organisation. Why don’t they bring in a legal provision for MSP and make a commitment that public procurement will not be reduced? There will be nothing left of the mandi system over the next five years.”

The Modi government had set up a six-member committee headed by BJP veteran Shanta Kumar in August 2014. The committee recommended in 2015 the encouragement of private players in agriculture trade, including procurement and storage, procurement by the FCI only in states where mandi systems are weak or non-existent, deregulation of the fertiliser sector and reduction in the number of beneficiaries under the Food Security Act.

Questioning the credibility of the Prime Minister’s assurances, another Congress MP from Punjab, Jasbir Singh Gill from Khadoor Sahib, said: “The Prime Minister said during demonetisation, ‘Give me 50 days, everything will be all right.’ He said the corona battle would be won in 21 days. Now the agriculture minister says these reforms will change the face of agriculture in two years. What kind of change, the same as we saw during demonetisation and corona? Modi has lit a fire that will damage agriculture. I appeal to every farmer all over the country to boycott the MPs who support these bills.”

Amritsar MP Gurjeet Singh Aujla said: “The question is — how will the government force the private companies to pay MSP? A plan to introduce private players in a big way is already afoot. You can check in Punjab: silos and warehouses of the Adani Group have already been built.”

Adani Agri Logistics is the leading player in the silo storage of grains with significant presence in Punjab, Haryana, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka.

Congress communications chief Randeep Surjewala explained how the government was “misleading” the farmers on MSP. He said the MSP for wheat announced on Monday was a rise of merely 2.6 per cent over last year’s figure but the government was claiming that they were giving input cost plus 50 per cent profit on most crops.

“The report of the CACP (Commission for Agriculture Costs and Prices) exposes the government’s lie. The report shows that the government has taken the input cost of wheat in 2020-21 and 2021-22 as same — Rs 960 per quintal. As if the costs of land, diesel, fertiliser and labour have not increased in one year! The MSP at actual input cost plus 50 per cent profit should be Rs 2,200, but it is only Rs 1,975. The same is the case with barley and chana. The MSP is lesser than the input cost in many states,” Surjewala said.

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