An average farmer of Uttar Pradesh gets at least ₹34,000 less income per acre of paddy than the average farmer of Kerala, All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS), argues. A member of Samykta Kisan Morcha, the coalition of farmer organisations that has put up a fight against the Central government’s soon-to-be repealed ‘anti-farmer’ laws and issues of low prices of farm produce, AIKS says that in Uttar Pradesh — due to lack of an assured price on MSP — the farmer is forced to sell paddy at ₹1,100-1,300 per quintal.

Compared to the minimum support price (MSP) calculated using the formula (C2+50%) recommended by a commission headed by renowned agri-scientist M.S. Swaminathan, this means the farmer is losing around ₹1,290 per quintal. In an acre, if the production is 20 quintals, a farmer should get ₹51,800 per acre as per C2+50%, but gets only ₹22,000, AIKS has said.

The allegation of AIKS and its focus on Uttar Pradesh turns politically significant because the state is readying for Assembly elections in the initial months of 2022.

“Had the C2+50% MSP been ensured, the farmer would have got at least ₹2,590 per quintal for paddy. However, as announced by the government this year, the MSP of paddy is only ₹1,960 (for A-grade paddy) — which means that if there was a guarantee of procurement at MSP, the farmer would have lost ₹630 per quintal when compared to a C2+50% MSP,” AIKS leaders point out. They say that Kerala farmers are getting ₹2,800 (including bonus) per quintal of paddy — which is higher than the government-fixed MSP. Procurement in Punjab happens at MSP rates, while in Uttar Pradesh the prevailing rates are lower than MSP.

According to AIKS, the repeal of the three ‘anti-farmer’ laws, after a year-long struggle by farmers across the country, has only averted a dangerous situation that would have developed in the future. “The present agrarian crisis — marked by low prices, no assurance of government procurement, crop failures, and mounting debt — continues to unfold under the Modi regime. The government body — the Commission for Agriculture Costs and Prices (CACP) — which recommends the MSP for different crops to the Central government calculates the cost of production using a formula, which is different from the Swaminathan Commission recommended C2 (that includes interests on capital and rent of land) costs. Further, there is a significant difference between CACP’s projection of C2 and the projection of the same by different states,” AIKS leaders have said.

“If we compare C2 cost projection of state and CACP for paddy in Andhra Pradesh, it is ₹2,114/quintal and ₹1,559/quintal, i.e. ₹555/quintal lesser; for Punjab it is ₹1,995/quintal and ₹1,272/quintal, i.e. ₹723/quintal lesser; for Kerala it is ₹2,852/quintal and ₹2,044/quintal, i.e. ₹808 lesser; for Karnataka it is ₹2,733/quintal and ₹1,635/quintal i.e. ₹1,098/quintal lesser. For Arhar (tur) in Karnataka the state C2 projection is ₹6,399/quintal, while CACP claims it is only ₹4,961/quintal, i.e. ₹1,438/quintal lesser. In the same state for moong it is ₹9,456/quintal and ₹6,173/quintal, respectively implying lesser by ₹3,283/quintal,” the organisation has said.

Clearly, there is a huge discrepancy in cost calculations, and the arbitrary manner in which costs are calculated by CACP is also exposed. Therefore, the meagre MSP announced by the Central government fails to provide an adequate income to farmers. When the prevailing MSPs are compared to MSP as recommended by Swaminathan Commission at C2+50%, it is clear why farmers are not pleased with just the repeal of three anti-farmer laws.

A law to make procurement at MSP rates, that too using the formula recommended by Swaminathan Commission, is the main demand made by the farmers after the Modi government yielded to their demand and decided to repeal the controversial farm laws last week.

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