Congress Calls for Law Guaranteeing MSP for All Crops; Slams Centre’s Ban on Wheat Exports

The party discussed some of the measures to reduce indebtedness of farmers by introducing different mechanisms, mitigating the impact of climate change on farming, among others.

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Udaipur: The Congress on Saturday, May 14 promised to include in its political agenda the implementation of a universal minimum support price (MSP) regime that will extend support from 22 crops to all farming produce.

The convenor of agriculture panel at the party’s Chintan Shivir and former Haryana chief minister, Bhupinder Singh Hooda, said that the party will demand that a universal MSP regime in the agriculture sector should be guaranteed through a legislation.

Slamming the three farm laws to point out the alleged insensitivity of the Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led Union government, Hooda said that the Congress panel on agriculture is mulling over various measures to ensure that the farmers feel secure.

Hooda spoke about some of the measures to reduce indebtedness of farmers by introducing different mechanisms, legalising MSP, mitigating the impact of climate change on farming, strengthening direct benefit transfer, nationalising the current PM Kisan insurance programme, and working towards what he called an “evergreen” revolution.

Earlier on Saturday, the former finance minister P. Chidambaram said that the Union government’s ban on exporting wheat was an anti-farmer move, which prevents farmers from reaping the benefits of an international price surge.

Hooda later said that the decision to export or not should be “tariff-dependent”. “If the international rates are good, crops should be exported to benefit farmers. If they are low, exports should be stopped.”

Hooda said that the PM Kisan Bima Yojana announced by Prime Minister Modi is hugely unsuccessful as a majority of farmers have struggled to get compensation. “This has happened because private insurance companies assess damage to crops according to their own convenience. The government should take assessment in its own hands and ensure that public sector insurance companies take over from private companies. Moreover, the insurance scheme should be extended to all crops on a no profit, no loss model.”

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At the same time, Hooda said in face of rising input costs, subsidies to farmers should be increased, while citing figures that indicated a consistent decline in subsidies during the Modi regime. He added that the party will strive to increase institutional credit mechanisms for farmers.

As far as middlemen are concerned, who the Modi government intends to weaken, Hooda categorically said, “Arhtiyas (middlemen) are part of the system. However, I must say that anyone who pays anything less than the MSP to farmers should be punished. And there should be a law for it.”

He also said that agriculture should be treated at par with other industries.

Hooda and other senior leaders like Nana Patole, Akhilesh Prasad Singh, Pratap Singh Bajwa, Shaktisinh Gohil, T.S. Singh Deo spoke about how the UPA government waived off loans amounting to Rs 70,000 crore, and the Congress-led state governments were emulating a similar model at the party’s Chintan Shivir.

Speaking to The Wire, Singh Deo, another member of the panel and health minister of Chhattisgarh, said that the Modi government restricted rice procurement from the state. It did so by advising the state not to pay a bonus over and above the MSP to farmers.

“We wanted to fulfill Rahul Gandhi’s promise of increasing the MSP to Rs 2,500 per quintal but the Centre prevented us from doing so by ruling a prohibitory order. As a result, the FCI [the Food Corporation of India] restricted the amount of procurement from Chhattisgarh,” he said.

He added that the Congress’s agenda on agriculture will be around the overall welfare of farmers as the Modi government has only aggravated their debts, even as it claimed to double farmers’ income.

The recommendations of each of the six panels will be sent to the highest decision making body of the party, the Congress Working Committee for approval on Sunday.