The Congress on Thursday attacked the Narendra Modi government, accusing it of ”betraying” farmers by only announcing minimum support price but never procuring their produce at those rates. It claimed that the government has turned MSP into ”maximum suffering of the producer” which proves that the BJP was made of ”anti-farmer DNA”.
A day after the Union government announced the Minimum Support Prices (MSP) for the Kharif Season 2023-24, Congress general secretary Randeep Surjewala claimed that not only was the MSP far less than what the farmers should ideally get, the government makes very limited purchases even on this meagre price.
At a press conference, he said the government had promised to fix the MSP of various crops after computing the input costs plus 50 per cent profit following the recommendations of The Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices (CACP). The MSP announced by the government nowhere reaches that amount, Surjewala claimed, adding that even at this ”low” MSP there is hardly any purchase of crops. ”When there is no intention to procure crops on MSP, what is the purpose of announcing it? MSP under the Modi government has turned into ‘maximum suffering of the producer (farmer)’,” he said.
The actions of this government for the last several years have proved the BJP was made of ”anti-farmer DNA”, Surjewala said.
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To substantiate the charges, he said of the 1,302 lakh tonnes of paddy produced in 2022-23, the government purchased only 651.70 lakh tonnes which was only 50 per cent of the total produce. The position of wheat procurement was much worse. Of the 1,068.4 lakh tonnes of wheat produced last year, the government procured only 187.92 lakh tonnes which comes to a meagre 17.59 per cent on the MSP, the Congress leader said.
Similarly, only 0.13 per cent of oilseeds, 0.43 per cent of pulses and 0.26 per cent of jowar, bajra, ragi and corn were procured at the MSP, he claimed.
Questioning Prime Minister Modi on his promises to double farmers’ income by 2022 and fix the MSP of various crops at the input costs plus fifty per cent profit, Surjewala said the Centre had rejected the recommendations of even the BJP-ruled state governments for fixing the MSP. Citing official data, he said that following the fifty per cent input cost plus fifty per cent profit, the MSP of paddy should have been Rs 2,867 per quintal against Rs 2,183 announced by the government.
BJP-ruled states such as Gujarat, Assam and Maharashtra had recommended Rs 2,750, Rs 3,132 and Rs 4,534 per quintal MSP for paddy. But the Centre rejected these recommendations.
Similarly, there were huge gaps between the input costs and the MSP announced by the government on other crops such as jowar, bajra, corn and moong, Surjewala alleged. The Congress general secretary alleged that not only had the Modi government cut down massively on the agriculture budget it also did not spend even the left out amount.
Of the total budget, the allocation for agriculture for 2020-21 was only 4.41 per cent while it was reduced to only 2.57 per cent in the subsequent budget, Surjewala claimed. He said what was shocking was that the Modi government has surrendered Rs 80,000 crore of the budget of the agriculture ministry in the last four years as it did not spend that amount.
In 2019-20 the government surrendered Rs 34,518 crore, Rs 23,825 crore in 2020-21, Rs 429 crore in 2021-22 and Rs 19,762 crore of agriculture budget was surrendered in 2022-23, Surjewala said.
”When you don’t have to spend it on agriculture, why allocate it? If this is not betrayal with 62 crore farmers of India then what is?” he asked.
Surjewala alleged that two crores farmers were dropped from the Kisan Samman Nidhi last year. He also sought to know what happened to the Rs one lakh crore agriculture infrastructure development fund announced by Prime Minister Modi three years ago.
The Congress leader said the time had come for the prime minister to answer the questions of 62 crores farmers ”who were feeling betrayed by him”.