The Centre on Wednesday raised the minimum support price (MSP) for wheat by Rs 50, taking it to Rs 1,450 a quintal, to encourage farmers to cover more area under the crop in the ongoing rabi season.
However, the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) opted not to react to the hike announced by the NDA government, unlike in the past when it would raise a hue and cry against the previous Congress-led UPA government for similar hikes.
Going with the trend, the Centre announced the same hike as was done in the 2012-13 and 2013-14 rabi seasons.
“Cruel joke with farmers” and “indifferent behaviour with Punjab” had been the reaction of the SAD whenever the hike of both wheat and paddy were announced during the last two UPA governments.
SAD general secretary and Lok Sabha member Prem Singh Chandumajra said the party would take up the matter with the Centre. “Prime Minister Narendra Modi has already talked about reviewing the formula for fixing the MSP,” he said.
“It takes time, only four months have passed (for the Modi government),” he said, when asked whether the Centre had taken the SAD or the farmers’ bodies into confidence before announcing the hike.
Punjab State Farmers Commission chairman Dr GS Kalkat said he would not like to comment without knowing the formula on the basis of which the MSP had been increased.
On Wednesday, it was the turn of the Congress to reject the MSP hike. Congress MP Capt Amarinder Singh here said, “We have time and again maintained that the NDA government has been insensitive to the farmers’ plight and have been proved right.” He said comparative figures of the past 16 years — 10 years of the UPA and six years of the NDA preceding that — stand testimony to the fact that the Congress-led UPA had always done better than the BJP-led NDA.
He said while the average cumulative increase in the paddy and wheat MSP during the Congress-led UPA government was Rs 70 per year, during the BJP-led NDA government between 1998 and 2004, it was only Rs 11. Punjab Congress Legislature Party leader Sunil Jakhar also slammed the Centre at the Commonwealth nations’ seminar on agriculture, saying the union budget allocation for the agriculture sector should be “realistically enhanced”.
Chief minister Parkash Singh Badal was also critical at the meet, saying the Centre’s policy on agriculture should be drafted keeping in mind the specific issues and problems of the states.
He even justified free power to farmers, taking a dig at “some sections” that opposed the subsidy.
The support price of rabi crops has been increased in the range of Rs 50-125 per quintal as recommended by the government’s advisory body commission for agriculture costs and prices. Crops whose support prices have been increased include barley, gram, masur and mustard seed.
To boost production of pulses specifically, the NDA government has hiked the support price of masur dal by Rs 125 per quintal to Rs 3,075 a quintal, while the MSP for gram has been raised by Rs 75 to Rs 3,175. The support prices of mustard seed and safflower seed have been increased by Rs 50 per quintal each to Rs 3,100 and Rs 3,050, respectively. Similarly, the MSP of barley has been increased by Rs 50 to Rs 1,150.