Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MP Shanta Kumar, who is heading a central committee to give suggestions on unbundling of the Food Corporation of India (FCI), said on Saturday that the system of minimum support price (MSP) for crops needs to be reviewed. With the Rs 2 lakh crore disbursed to farmers every year, only 8% of farmers are covered, while the rest struggle to sell their produce and live in penury, he said.
Shanta, who is on a crosscountry tour talking to stakeholders, met representatives of Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Jammu and Kashmir and Chandigarh during his two-day visit. He said efforts are to devise a mechanism to support all farmers of the country. The committee is to submit its report by January 15.
Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal and his Haryana counterpart Manohar Lal Khattar also met Shanta for redress of the states’ issues related to procurement of wheat and paddy.
Punjab repeatedly conveyed that delay in disbursal of cash credit limit (CCL) for paddy procurement in the ongoing kharif season caused losses to the farmers and other stakeholders, including commission agents. The matter was specifically brought to Shanta’s notice by Punjab Mandi Board chairman Ajmer Singh Lakhowal and vice-chairman Ravinder Singh Cheema.
In reaction, Shanta said there was some “communication gap” between the FCI and Punjab due to which the issue had cropped up. “I think both (FCI and Punjab government) have to sit together and resolve issues,” suggested Shanta, who is a former CM of Himachal Pradesh and has also remained a Union minister.
Cheema suggested that permitted moisture content in paddy be increased to 19% in Punjab instead of 17%, while Lakhowal said MSP should continue and a support price be fixed for premium quality basmati as well.
Shanta told HT that after talking to the states’ representatives the committee (that he heads) was coming to the conclusion that the entire responsibility of procurement should be given to the states and funding be made available. “The responsibility of storage of foodgrains should be given to the Central Warehousing Corporation (CWC) and also state corporations,” he suggested.
The role of the FCI, according to Shanta, would be to maintain buffer stock. Another suggestion he noted was to continue procurement the entire year, instead of 25 days to one month, for both rabi and kharif crops.
“Our effort is to reduce cost of transportation which is Rs 3.65 for foodgrain worth Rs 1,” Shanta told HT, adding that it is being proposed that foodgrains under the schemes for BPL (below poverty line) population be given on six-month basis instead of monthly “which would save several lakh tonnes of storage capacity”.