Another farmer agitation in India may occur over the legal guarantee of MSP
Farmers’ leaders see an opportunity to get guaranteed MSP before the next general election in 2024. They have started doing things to build momentum, and informal talks have already started between different groups. The main Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM), which led the farmers’ one-year-long protest that finally got the government to abolish three controversial farm laws, has lost members and split up over the past year.
‘One thing that all farmer unions agree on is that the law has to guarantee the minimum support price (MSP). Also, everyone agrees that the MSP should be set at the C2+50% formula, according to Avik Saha of Jai Kisan Andolan, who is also a member of SKM’s steering committee.
Pressure on political parties
As some state elections are getting closer next year and the general election is coming up in a year and a half, political parties will be under pressure to meet farmers’ needs, said Darshan Pal, a farmer leader from Punjab. Pal said that at least 50,000 farmers would join the protest march in Chandigarh.
Before the 2014 general election, Narendra Modi, as the prime ministerial candidate for the BJP, was the first person to promise to use the Swaminathan formula to set the MSP at 50% profit over cost. At the time, several farmer unions had been protesting for this demand. Later in 2018, the Centre kept its promise by setting the MSPs for 23 crops at a minimum profit of 50% over the costs of production (A2 + family labour).
Earlier, on Thursday, Pal told the media that the Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM) would hold a nationwide march to Raj Bhawans on November 26 to mark the two-year anniversary of the farmer protest that started in Punjab and reached the border of Delhi. He said that the Centre had broken its promise to meet the farmers’ unmet needs. He also said that farmers would celebrate November 19 as ‘Fateh Diwas,’ or ‘Victory Day,’ to mark the fact that Prime Minister Modi had said that the farm laws would be thrown out.
The SKM’s general body will also meet on December 8 in Karnal, Haryana, to decide how the movement will move forward.
When asked about the many splits in the SKM, Yudhvir Singh of the Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) said that he hoped all the organizations would get back together because the issue is important and everyone wants to help farmers. Some 16 groups have come back to the SKM because they realized it was a mistake to run for office in Punjab. However, six groups are still not part of the front, according to farmer leaders.
‘When farmers were told to march to Delhi in 2020, SKM didn’t exist yet. It wasn’t created until they reached the border of Delhi. ‘Of course, the three ‘black laws’ gave the movement a boost at the time, but the legal guarantee could be a similar rallying point in the future,’ Saha said.
When asked if the legal guarantee of MSP is still important since farmers sold most rabi crops like wheat, mustard, lentils, and barley for more than the benchmark prices in 2022, he said that domestic prices of agricultural products were higher because the war cut into global supplies of many crops, so the question of whether or not farmers got MSP should be looked at in a normal situation.
According to official data, during the main arrival period (March–June) of 2022, the average mandi price of wheat was 3% higher than its MSP of ₹2,015 per quintal. In the same way, farmers sold lentils for 15% more than their MSP of 5,500 per quintal, mustard for 26% more than ₹5,050 per quintal, and barley for 56% more than ₹1,635 per quintal. Only gramme (chana), which has an MSP of ₹5,230 per quintal, was sold for 11% less than that price.